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Commission demands end to “festering sore” of African poverty

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7492.622 (Published 17 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:622
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. London

    A report by the Commission for Africa has called on rich nations to take a “Hippocratic oath” to the African continent, promising to “first do no harm.” The 450 page report breaks new ground by acknowledging not just Africa's perennial problem of bad governance but also the role that the West has played in impoverishing the continent.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has frequently spoken of the need to tackle the “festering sore” of African poverty, set up the Commission for Africa a year ago. The Africa Commissioners include Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown; the secretary of state for international development, Hilary Benn; singer Bob Geldof; and two heads of state: Benjamin Mkapa, president of Tanzania, and Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia. Nine of the 17 commissioners are themselves Africans. With the publication of this report, the commission's principal task is now finished.

    The report says: “The trading relationship between the developed and developing worlds has long been one dominated by a complex web of rules, taxes, tariffs, and quotas which massively bias the entire business of international trade in favour of the rich.” It accuses the industrialised world of being a “wilful obstacle” to African development. It notes that a typical European cow receives $2 (£1.04; €1.43) a day …

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