Brown calls for new focus on African growth – and a mass roll out of broadband Internet

David Taylor

shanty townBy David Taylor, Chair of LCID

Gordon Brown yesterday used his first major speech since leaving office to discuss the issue that has inspired him since childhood – development in Africa.

In a speech to African Union leaders at their summit in Kampala, Gordon Brown called for a new approach to growth and aid on the continent. He called for Africa to be at the heart of a new global growth strategy which could increase employment by millions. Brown told the leaders that the ascent of Africa could lead the world out of recession, saying:

“Future growth in the world economy, and future jobs in the developing world, will depend on harnessing both the productive potential and the pent-up consumer demand of this continent and the developing world. There is a shortage of global aggregate demand, so today every job not created in Africa is a job lost to our common global growth; every business that fails is a business lost to global growth; every entrepreneur whose idea can’t be realised is a driver lost to global growth.”

“There is an alternative to a decade of low global growth which would fail to meet both the development needs of Africa and the growth needs of Europe and America. To me the answer is obvious: as we struggle to find new sources of growth we must turn here, to Africa, to this continent of huge potential and talent.”

A rethinking of aid can help stimulate this growth. Aid should continue to support Africa’s public sector to provide essential services (health, education and water), but aid should not be an end in itself, he said. Aid should be seen as an investment in equitable growth and sustainable development by helping to unleash the private sector.

Gordon Brown also argued that a key strategy for future growth in Africa will be the possibility of Africa leapfrogging a stage in technology and gaining mass access to broadband internet access. He used the speech to announce that he was working with African leaders and experts in the field including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, for a major campaign and programme of work on the issue. He went on to say:

“Africa’s best hope for diversification into the high-value sectors is a massive acceleration in the use of IT. A third of people in Africa now have mobiles, but less than 1% have access to broadband. I truly believe that the rapid expansion of internet access in Africa could transform how Africa trades, learns and holds political power accountable.”

Here at the Labour Campaign for International Development we are very pleased that Gordon Brown is looking to launch an initiative on broadband access. We’re pleased too that the former PM’s first major speech since leaving office has been on international development – it just underlines the commitment that he and Tony Blair have always had on the issue. Tony Blair of course set up his African Governance Initiative upon leaving office, and we await further news on Gordon’s initiative with excitement.

What will be the vision of the next leader of Labour Party on international development? We’ll be interviewing all the leadership candidates on their views on the Robin Hood Tax, fairer trade and climate change – the issues that came top of our poll (thank you to all those who took part). Whatever their answers, it is clear the next leader of the Labour Party has some very big boots to fill when they succeed Tony and Gordon.

You can read the full speech here – it’s well worth a read.

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