Today in Addis Ababa, the African Union (AU) meets for its annual summit which this year will focus on women's empowerment and developing Agenda 2063, their 50 year development plan. This long term approach aims for inclusive growth and sustainable development and a shift away from aid-dependency.
The inclusion and promotion of women in the research, design and delivery of development programmes is critical to success. No country will flourish without the involvement of half of its population and it is right that women are highlighted in the formative seven principles of the Agenda.
In its ambition to build a politically united, peaceful, self-sustaining continent which values its heritage, the AU are right to seek out long term, autonomous policies. The lack of systems and infrastructure in some of the African Union countries can be seen as a blessing as well as a curse: they have the opportunity to start from scratch and do it correctly. The recent passing of the 0.7% GNI bill in the House of Commons was a real triumph and I'm proud that more Labour MPs voted than the rest of the parties put together. However, we must be careful that aid is a hand up, not a hand out.
DFID programmes should be looking to complement Africa's goal for good governance, democracy, human rights and justice so that they become a strong global partner. The AU's Commissioner for Economic Affairs said this week that the Agenda 2063 aims to enhance "economic management and broader socio-economic transformation to improve the standard of living and quality of life". To support this, our investments should be focussing on strengthening institutions, sharing our world class expertise, promoting best practice in the work place and creating the conditions for vulnerable people to thrive.
In 1998, DFID under Labour invested £20million into creating a Rwandan Revenue Authority which in the first year collected £60million and by 2006 increased to £240million a year. Consequently, poverty levels fell from 74% in 1994 to 56% in 2006. One of the most telling figures is that government expenditure received from aid is down from 85% in 2000 to 45% in 2010.
As well as mobilising domestic tax revenue, DFID under Labour will prioritise tax justice, ensuring that extractive companies and multinationals pay their fair share. Shockingly, developing countries lose three times as much in unpaid tax than they receive in global aid combined - an estimated $160 billion a year lost is some of the poorest countries. Multinational companies should be forced to pay tax in the countries they operate, not hide them away in offshore accounts.
Of course, for a tax system to flourish, it needs workers to contribute. Labour strongly believes that the best route out of poverty is through decent work. Growth is gradually increasing throughout Africa, from 4.5% in 2014 to a projection of 5.1% in 2017. With rising employment, especially in the private sector, DFID needs to invest resources to ensure that workers have adequate conditions, reasonable pay and the freedom to join a trade union. Jobs created in the private sector must be accessible to local people and benefit the surrounding community and environment.
Labour believes that these are the building blocks to long term, sustainable growth that would match the aspirations of Agenda 2063. 2015 has the potential to be an historic year for development; the international community coming together in September to agree the Sustainable Development Goals and in December to agree a framework to tackle climate change, with the small matter of the General Election in May. Labour will use the opportunities this year as a springboard to supporting the African Union achieve their goals.