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Monday, 17 June 2013 18:10

The 2013 Lough Erne G8 and Africa

Written by Fern Ramoutar
David Cameron speaks at the G8 Tax Trade and Transperency conference 15 June 2013, with African leaders. David Cameron speaks at the G8 Tax Trade and Transperency conference 15 June 2013, with African leaders. Photo © UK G8 Presidency

When the United Kingdom last hosted the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005, Africa was set as one of the foremost priorities on the agenda. Now as the UK has the responsibility of hosting the upcoming Lough Erne Summit on June 17-18 2013, it has laid out a distinct set of priority topics: trade, taxation, and transparency.

Given this list, it might initially appear as though little attention will be given to Africa. However, while Africa is not explicitly mentioned, the Lough Erne agenda will deal indirectly with a number of issues that are significant for the continent. It is also of interest to note that the chairman of the AU, the prime minister of Ethiopia, the president of Somalia, the chairman of the AU commission, as well as leaders from Senegal, Liberia have been invited to the summit.

The first component of “the three T’s” agenda that will affect African countries is the push for greater transparency, particularly in the extractive industries and forestry. Foreign and domestic stakeholders involved with corrupt activity or the unfair exploitation of resources will be impacted by any agreements made on transparency, to the benefit of the many African countries with endowments of natural capital.

In the area of taxation UK Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed to develop international tax standards and greater information exchange. Tax fraud and tax evasion are sources of major revenue loss for governments around the world, including those across Africa. Support for improved tax legislation by the G8 members will boost ongoing domestic efforts on the continent to sustain broad-based and fair tax collection processes.  

The emphasis on tax and transparency in the agenda also highlights a struggle being experienced globally: a constrained capacity to finance adequate public services in conditions of limited funds. The strain of debt management on the G8 countries has required a shift in priorities that are in some ways consistent with the ones held by African and other developing countries.  

Outside of its focus on the abovementioned topics, the UK cohosted a pre-summit meeting on June 8, titled “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science,” with the Government of Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The event brought together government leaders, and members of the business community and civil society to pledge resources and political will to the task of preventing undernutrition. This objective is in line with MDG 1, on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, which represents a significant obstacle to improving human development and economic growth prospects on the continent, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While it is possible for the Lough Erne agenda to serve the interests of African countries, whether or not the Summit’s outcomes are constructive will depend on the compliance of G8 members to their commitments in the following months, and years. Historically, the G8 has prioritized Africa within a traditional development agenda, and compliance to such commitments has been mixed. The G8 usually complies with its commitments on development in a consistent but not overly ambitious way, leaving an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with the G8 performance in the area.

Given the broad range of topics covered over in past summits, it is clear that “the three t’s” and extended agenda of Lough Erne will not cover every issue relevant to Africa. Noticeably absent from the agenda for a second year is water and sanitation. Several MDGs, especially 2, 3, and 6, on universal primary education, gender equality, and combatting infectious diseases, have not been referenced as areas of importance.

Furthermore, MDGs 4 and 5, on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, which were tackled directly at the Muskoka Summit in 2010, through the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and at the Deauville Summit in 2011, have only been examined tangentially, with respect to nutrition. The expiration of the MDGs in two years entails a certain urgency, or at least relevance, which has not yet been adequately represented at this year’s summit.

Ultimately, what remains to be seen is whether the Lough Erne agenda can indirectly facilitate the generation of a series of commitments that address Africa’s present issues and make the connection between the problems that all countries face, of corruption, tax evasion and increasingly austere times. Evidence from past G8 summits suggests that this outcome is both possible, and realistic.

In the event that such commitments are developed, it will be up to the G8 members and all relevant stakeholders to follow through on their promises, in order to help Africa, and the rest of the world.

Fern Ramoutar is part of the G8 Study Group at the University of Toronto, who have authored a series of excellent papers on the G8

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