The Commission for Africa was a collection of African and non-African politicians, academics and activists, appointed in 2005 by Tony Blair to put forward proposals for policies to kick-start African development. Their report was released in early 2005; as well as the 464-page full report, there’s a reduced “The Argument” version which is also available in book form. If you’re really in a hurry, there’s a six-page executive summary.

We’ve previously run through the Report, and each heading below will take you to the relevant post. Aren’t I just too nice?

So here’s a very quick run-down of the headline points:


  • Good government is vital to economic growth
  • African governments are getting more stable, democratic and transparent, but more progress is needed
  • Judges, politicians, and journalists all need training to work to higher standards
  • Corruption remains a huge obstacle to growth
  • Rich countries must help by cracking down on money laundering and bribes by their companies
  • African governments must publish details of how money is raised and spent


  • Conflicts large and small kill tens of thousands of Africans each year and severely retard economic growth
  • Action to prevent and end conflict could cost rich countries far less than emergency aid once conflicts begin
  • An international Arms Trade Treaty is needed to help control the flow of small arms to areas in conflict
  • Valuable mineral industries must take action to prevent the sale of “conflict resources,” in the vein of the Kimberley Process
  • The African Union can monitor and help prevent conflicts, but it needs support
  • Careful peacebuilding policies after ceasefires can help prevent conflict recurring

Economic growth: internal changes

  • Economic growth is the only long-term route to development and poverty reduction
  • But internal barriers prevent an internal market developing, while poor governance and a bad image put off foreign investors
  • Agriculture must be the driver of growth
  • Rich countries should support the African Union’s Investment Climate Facility
  • Massive investment is needed in transport infrastructure and irrigation
  • Customs delays and internal tarrifs must come down
  • Improvements in land and property laws will decrease agricultural povery and spur business
  • Farmers need support to make small investments to diversify from fragile crops

Economic growth: rich countries’ responsibilities

  • Agricultural subsidies by rich countries depress prices and should be scrapped
  • Import tarrifs (taxes) in rich countries should also be phased out, especially for agricultural goods
  • Other potential trade barriers, such as pesticide safety standards, should be designed not to block African countries from markets
  • “Trade preference” schemes are vital for African countries to gain additional access to rich country markets. They should be extended, and unfair exceptions abolished
  • Poor economies need protection. In multilateral trade discussions, rich countries should open their markets to poor countries without concessions from poor countries in return

Public services

  • Economic growth will only end poor if those excluded from it are brought in
  • This includes women, children and those so poor they can’t get on the “economic ladder”. Aid targeted at these groups, particularly women, will be the most effective at reducing poverty
  • Education is vital but funding promises are not being kept. An extra $7-8 billion per year is needed to fund teacher training and abolish primary school fees
  • Clinical health across Africa is on the point of collapse. $10 billion a year extra is needed right now to training doctors and nurses, abolish fees, and provide key, cheap equipment like malaria bed-nets
  • To encourage research, rich countries should commit now to buy certain key medicines, like “liquid condom” anti-HIV gel, once they’re developed
  • Existing commitments to funding clean water need to be met
  • An extra $10 billion a year is needed to fight HIV and AIDS, with health workers getting smarter about African culture and beliefs, for example working with witch doctors.

Aid & debt relief

  • The total cost of the Commission’s proposals is $75 billion a year
  • Of this $25 billion should come from African governments, $50 billion from rich countries
  • Half of this – of both rich countries’ and Africa’s share – should be made available now, the rest by 2010 if efforts are proving successful
  • For rich countries, this amounts to an immediate doubling of aid to Africa
  • To be effective, aid must be long-term, in grant, not loan, form, well-coordinated between donors, and usually given straight to governments. Extensive conditions on aid should be abolished
  • Poor countries with good governance should recieve immediate 100% debt relief

The wider changes needed

  • To be successful, development must be led by African governments and institutions, with foreign NGOs in a supporting role
  • The government of the IMF, World Bank and WTO must be reformed to give Africa a greater voice
  • African representation on the UN Security Council should also be improved
  • A monitoring organisation should be set up to ensure the recommendations are fulfilled

I’ll be looking soon at some of the criticisms of the Africa Commission Report, and I’ll add those here too when I’m done.