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Tony Blair: Africa Poised to Be a Great Economic Story of the 21st Century

Lauren Lyster
Daily Ticker
Tony Blair: Africa Poised to Be a Great Economic Story of the 21st Century

The BRICs? So yesterday. China? Talk about growing pains. The U.S. and E.U.? Lookin’ a little past their primes these days. So what is going to be the big economic success story of the 21st century?

According to Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain and founder of the Tony Blair Africa Governance, Africa fits the bill.

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“I think it’s where Latin America was 20 years ago, with some even greater possibilities,” Blair tells The Daily Ticker on the sidelines of the Milken Institute’s 2013 Global Conference.

According to the Milken Institute, seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Blair says the number of democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown from three to 25 over the past 25 years, and he cites a growing middle class.

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Blair is working with presidents of African countries to get their private sectors going. The biggest challenge is building infrastructure, Blair says. The infection rates of diseases like malaria and measles have fallen because of billions of dollars of international aid. But rooting out corruption in African nations will also be the key to any success stories, according to Blair.

Blair also sees a geopolitical imperative for the West to continue developing these impoverished countries.

“Africa is important because it’s a rich continent with poor people,” he says. “If we invest in it now, we’re going to create a peaceful relationship with it. Otherwise it’s going to be the source of real problems for us.”

According to the Guardian, the U.S. and China have invested $90 billion and $75 billion respectively in aid and development in the continent over the last decade. In the accompanying video, Blair discusses the type of political and economic influence foreign countries are vying for, along with the impact it’s having on both Africa and the geopolitical balance.

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The desire for some of Africa’s most valuable resources presents ethical challenges and dilemmas for locals and foreign governments. For example, the poaching of elephants in Africa is big business, according to a New York Times opinion piece. High consumer demand for ivory in China and other countries in the Far East has led to the death of more than 30,o0o African elephants in the past year. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, more than 60% of the elephants in Chad and Cameroon have been slaughtered in the past decade. Environmental and wildlife experts say consumers in Asia are not aware of or don't care how their ivory trinkets were obtained.

"There are a whole set of problems to do with how you develop resources and how you protect the environment and rare species of wildlife," Blair says, "and those are going to be sorted out. The question is, is there real opportunity for people to come and do good and provide prosperity and opportunity for people in Africa, and I think those opportunities are genuinely there now."