On 11 June, in London, the Finance ministers of the G8 reached a deal on debt relief for poor countries. I believe this is good news, and it is so for several reasons.
First of all, this is definetely a good example of international solidarity, which I defended in a previous post.
Secondly, it gives good news from UK domestic politics. Gordon Brown is reharsing his role as a leader. After they reached the deal, he declared: "This is not a time for timidity, this is a time for boldness." He is deadly right.
Thirdly, Tony Blair is exercising strong pressure on George Bush to have some of his plans implemented at the international level. And Bush seems to be collaborative.
There is no reason to be overly optimistic. Of course, debt relief is not the whole story. In Africa, structural problems remain extremely important. Dictatorships plague political systems; Western trade with Africa is not fair yet, as Western countries export to Africa without limitation, and they import at virtually zero costs.
But, debt relief should be taken as a good starting point. It is not meant to favour this or that dictator, it is meant to clear the ground from an huge burden, so that the rest can be done. Second steps should be taken, but this is beyond the point. And it is poossibly more controversial. For, certain more positive interventions could indeed be perceived as paternalistic and illegitimate. Debt relief, on the contrary, is like putting the watch backward and tell african people: now it is up to you, this obstacle has been removed. It is not charity for the sake of it, it is a necessary action to create the pre-conditions for you to give it a try to grow.
So, in conclusion, is debt relief an answer for Africa? I say it is an important, albeit not sufficient, first step. Let's build up from that.