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Press Release: Tony Blair: Making Government Work Will Transform Africa

December 16, 2010

Tony Blair: Making Goverment World Will Transform Africa

WASHINGTON, D.C.(December 16, 2010)- Tony Blair today set out his vision for a new partnership with Africa, in which the international community supports committed African leaders to transform their countries by making government work better.

The Founder of the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative was speaking at a Center for Global Development event in Washington DC, to launch a new essay entitled “Not Just Aid: Making Government Work Can Transform Africa“, which argues:

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*There is a lot to be optimistic about in Africa – but to realize Africa’s potential the answer has to be about more than aid. A new partnership has to emerge between the international community and Africa – one in which country ownership is more than a convenient slogan. Country ownership has to start with supporting governments – and leaders.

*Leadership is fundamentally about getting things done. You need a vision, be willing to make tough choices and be disciplined about what you focus on. But the really hard part is putting in place the machinery that will make it happen.

*Government is a race between expectations and capability. As a leader, you either reform government fast enough to deliver what people expect of it, or you lose the support to govern. Good leadership is therefore turning those intentions into practical results.

*This means that the development community needs to do more to sup­port, not just exhort, leaders in Africa to do the right thing. Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) is pioneering a new way of working, helping to equip committed African leaders with the capacity to deliver the public services which their citizens have the right to expect, to tackle deep-rooted poverty, and to attract the sustainable investment to build strong economies for the future.

Launching the essay, Tony Blair said:

“Africa’s future is a strategic interest for us. Security, resources, food, water: you name it and we have an interest in how Africa develops.

“My charity – the Africa Governance Initiative - focuses on one thing: building effective systems of capacity to govern. Without building effective capacity, without Governments capable of delivering practical things and on a path to release from dependency on aid, then aid can only ever be a palliative – vital to many, but not transformative of a nation.

Through the work of his Africa Governance Initiative in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Tony Blair noted that “in all three, I notice a younger generation determined to take the country’s future into their own hands; impatient with those who blame the present on the past; and eager to learn and apply the lessons of others from around the world. It is the nuts and bolts of policy.

“It is strategy. It is performance management. It is delivery. It is the right expertise in the right place. It is ministers who can focus. It is organizing and communicating it. This is where there is a big challenge for development policy, not just what we do to build capacity but how we do it: more innovative; more enterprising and more politically connected.

“This could be Africa’s century. It should be. To play even a very small part in making that happen is a privilege.”

CGD President Nancy Birdsall, who hosted a Q&A session with Tony Blair after the speech today said afterwards:

“I am delighted that the Center for Global Development was able to host this conversation with former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in cooperation with the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). Today Mr. Blair offered a clear picture of Africa’s potential, while outlining why developed-world engagement and support is critical for African leaders who are helping make positive transformation possible.”

The Africa Governance Initiative was founded by Tony Blair in 2007, on the principle that good governance is not just about the absence of corruption, but the presence of capacity to deliver change. AGI currently works in 3 countries recovering from past conflict, where leaders such as President Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, President Kagame in Rwanda and President Koroma in Sierra Leone have a clear vision for reform, but where the capacity to deliver the public services such as health, education and infrastructure, that their citizens have the right to expect remains lacking.

The event was hosted by the Center for Global Development, an independent that works to improve the policies of rich countries, the merging powers and international organizations to make them more supportive of development. Tony Blair’s speech coincides with the publication of a pamphlet, entitled “Not Just Aid: How Making Government Work Can Transform Africa” In it, Tony Blair argues that the responsibility for Africa’s future rests with Africans – but that as well as holding their leaders accountable, we also need to support them to succeed.


Notes to Editors

The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) is a UK charity which is pioneering a new way of working with African countries. AGI helps to equip committed African leaders with the capacity to deliver the public services which their citizens have the right to expect, to tackle deep-rooted poverty, and to attract the sustainable investment to build strong economies for the future.

The Center for Global Development (CGD) is an independent, non-profit policy research organization dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality and to making globalization work for the poor. Through a combination of research and strategic outreach, the Center engages policymakers and the public to influence the policies of the United States, other rich countries, and such institutions as the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Trade Organization to improve the economic and social development prospects in poor countries.

Event materials, including video footage of the event, text of the speech, photos, and a copy of the pamphlet are available on the Center for Global Development at

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Photo of Nancy Birdsall
Senior Fellow, President Emeritus