Governance remains a challenge in Africa - Blair

Friday, August 31, 2012

Johannesburg - Governance remains the biggest challenge facing Africa, says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"I don't believe there's a better system than democracy... there should be a realisation that African countries need to put sound economic and political institutions in place to prosper," Blair said on Thursday.

He delivered a keynote address at the Discovery Invest leadership summit at the Sandston Convention Centre.

"We need all of us with long democratic practices to explain to others what democracy is," Blair said.
He said most African countries were starting to do things for themselves and were performing well economically but governance remained a critical area for improvement.

"Today when you give African countries help they say thank you but from here we can do it by ourselves and that is good but the challenge of governance is what is facing most nations."

Blair's presence at the summit had been marred by controversy after Archbishop Desmond Tutu withdrew from the event citing the Brit's involvement in the 2003 war against Iraq.

But on Thursday he defended his decision to support the US in the removal of Saddam Hussein.
"Removing Saddam was very difficult, keeping there was also very difficult, so we are faced with the same types of decision now, in Syria what do we do?" he asked.

Blair said he stood by his decision to help remove Saddam.

"I just want you to understand I took the decision in good faith," he said responding to a question on whether he had any regrets.

At the time of the war both Blair and former United States President George Bush believed Iraq, under Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was however never proved.

"The one thing that I have learned about leadership is that in the end you have to take responsibility and I had to abide by that and I had to take questions. In the end that what you elect leaders to do, I took that decision for the reasons I gave at the time and I still happen to think that I will never regret removing a brutal dictatorship who posed a threat to the security of the region," Blair said to loud approvals from the audience.

Commenting on the problems facing the US finance sector and the Eurozone, he said the crisis had exposed the need for the world to change.

"Tough decisions to resolve the crisis need to be taken and the structures of government need to realise that decisions can never be postponed. This is the moment when the world has to come together. We are faced with a fundamental challenge of taking decisions to reform our pensions and other critical areas in education and health care," Blair said.

He said without the resolution of the problems faced by both the US financial sector and Europe, the world would suffer.

"There must be recognition that this is a shared problem that requires a shared solution".

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