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British Prime Minister Tony Blair Launches A New Initiative For Africa

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced a new initiative aimed at helping lower the cost of doing business in Africa. The plan -- called the Investment Climate Facility For Africa – also intends to promote a better investment climate across the continent.

Ross Herbert of the South African Institute of International Affairs says if countries follow through with it, the Blair initative has the potential to positively impact African economies. Mr. Herbert told Voice of America reporter Ashenafi Abedje Africa is a lot more stable economically today than in the past – having undertaken substantial reforms. But he says the business climate – encompassing the collection of laws that govern land, banking, business registration among others -- remains complicated.

Mr. Herbert says the Blair initiative will help identify and solve these and other investment-related problems. The South Africa-based analyst says success of the program will hinge on the active participation of African governments working in collaboration with donor countries and agencies. Mr. Herbert says in many African countries, the political order is bound up in the economy – with politicians profiting from granting favors to friends for import monopolies. He says if the economies are to revive, there must be an end to systems of governance in which ruling coalitions are maintained by giving perks to allies and pandering to ethnic coalitions.

Mr. Herbert cites China’s economic boom as an outcome of twenty-five years of sustained reforms. He says even with the Blair initiative, turning around Africa’s economy will not be a quick fix. Just like China, he says, it is a goal that will take years of concerted effort to achieve.