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Tony Blair on effective governance in Africa

Africa has made real economic progress in recent years -- so much so that governance, not aid, is now the challenge, said former prime minister Tony Blair at a May 21 address at the Baker Institute. "What is going to make a real difference is the ability of governments in developing countries to get things done," he said.

To support Africa"s efforts to effectively govern, Blair in 2008 founded the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), which currently works in seven African nations. AGI teams work shoulder-to-shoulder with the nations" presidents and local residents "to help the governments prioritize, get the right policy, and get the right personnel in the right places," Blair said.

The organization's work in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea, Malawi and South Sudan focuses on three main areas: electricity, infrastructure and quality private sector investment. Everything is possible with electricity, but very little can be done without it, Blair noted. Infrastructure is crucial because although Africa has great agricultural potential, the food is wasted -- roads leading to ports and markets don"t exist. Quality private investment is needed in an environment where private funding can randomly arrive from sometimes dubious sources. "If you get these three things right, everything else is manageable," Blair said.

AGI"s work in Africa is not just a solid moral cause, he added. "It"s also an act of enlightened self-interest."

"I don"t know what will happen to the continent of Africa over the next [several decades], but I do know the population will double. Whether the countries are on their feet with functioning economies is not going to be an issue simply for them, but an issue for us also."

Blair's address was part of the Shell Distinguished Lecture Series, a Baker Institute speakers program that reflects the vision of our honorary chair, James A. Baker, III, and Shell"s commitment to defining the role of statesmanship, integrity and bold leadership in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.