Clegg on UK and EU relationship with Africa: “more trade, fairer tax and greater business transparency”

Nick Clegg gave a speech at the Africa Jubilee Business Forum which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity. Here are the highlights:

Political rights must go in tandem with economic growth

Everybody, of course, wants growth – the key decision is how you achieve it. More and more African countries face a choice between the economic models of authoritarian capitalism, on the one hand, and liberal democracy, on the other.

In countries like China, authoritarian capitalism argues the case for economic growth ahead of political freedoms. And it’s a seductive argument in view of surging growth rates, which have occurred in the absence of political freedom.

But ultimately it is a false promise. My view, the liberal view, is that economic progress and political rights are inseparable. They are parallel tracks, each reinforcing the other.

Fairness, freedom, empowerment, education, the rule of law – these are not so-called Western values. They are the values that will underpin healthy economies across the globe, long into the future.

And in a world of younger populations, growing middle classes and technological innovations that allow relationships and communities to form across traditional state borders, the demand for both economic success and political freedom – will only increase. Lasting stability depends not just on opening up our economies, but creating open societies too.

We will spend 0.7% on aid

The UK remains a strong partner with Africa. I’m proud that we will honour our commitment to spend 0.7% of this nation’s wealth helping the world’s poorest countries.

As you may know, legislation to enshrine this commitment in law was not included in last week’s Queen’s Speech – it’s an issue that has proved highly controversial amongst some Conservative MPs – but I’m pleased that the Coalition Government in its deeds and actions will continue to meet our commitments abroad: and our actions show that we will not balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest.

A fair price for oil and gas

We want to make sure Africans receive their fair share from the resources they have and the business they do. That demands fairer tax rules and greater transparency around what is being paid for oil, gas and mining resources and where the profits then flow.

We are pushing for more companies to report on the revenues they pay to governments, and for more governments to report on the revenues they receive.

The EU has just agreed legislation that will require all oil, gas and mining companies listed in Europe to publish what they pay to governments, in line with the US. Through the G8, we are pushing for equivalent standards to be applied globally.

Taxing matters

Equally important is ensuring that tax regimes are transparent and efficient. Already, the UK’s flagship governance programme in Ethiopia has helped their authorities increase tax revenue from £8.2 bn per year in 2002 to £55 bn in 2011.

Only in partnership together – developed and developing countries- can we ensure our systems work as they should. These tax revenues are integral to deliver the infrastructure and skills that will drive growth in the future.

Colourful shoes

In Ethiopia, for example, I met female entrepreneur Bethlehem TilahunAlemu. What others saw as scrap, Bethlehem saw as a business opportunity.

Her company Sole Rebels, which turns old car tyres into shoes, now employs around 80 people. It’s an enterprise that’s transforming the lives not just of Bethlehem and her workers, but also their families and the people they do business with elsewhere.

As a quick aside, Bethlehem would never forgive me if I didn’t tell you that you can buy her shoes online, here in the UK. I still wear the fabulously comfortable and very brightly coloured shoes that I got from her myself earlier this year.

You can read his whole speech here.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.
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2 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 14th May '13 - 5:50pm

    I do not agree with increasing international aid whilst the government can’t even afford to pay its own bills. The public can see this is a stupid policy and it is nothing to be proud of.

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