A musing on David Camerons trip to India and its implications for Africa

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August 3, 2010 By specialguest

As someone with a passing interest in Poverty and  Development I followed
David Cameron’s trip to India with avid interest.

Image from Conservative Party website

The trip to India was a success according to most commentators, however this has been overshadowed by Cameron’s outspoken comments on

Pakistan and its support of  terrorism.

David Cameron seemed very keen to please his Indian hosts hence his strong but factual statement about Pakistan’s export of tourism, he could have added that Pakistan has lost thousands of soldiers and civilians in the war against terror, but  the Indians didn’t want

to hear that.

What characterized the trip for me was the humble tone and demeanour adopted by  Cameron, at one point he  almost sounded like an African

president on a foreign trip begging for inward investment.

He seemed keen to atone for the sins of the Raj, Indeed people of right-wing
persuasion might have found the whole trip a bit much to stomach.

There was one line from the numerous reports that caught my eye, it was in the Financial Times ; “a senior downing street source told us

that Cameron was staying away from and Poverty Tourism”

David Cameron spent three days in India and didn’t say anything about
the hundreds of millions of Indians mired poverty. He didn’t visit any DFID funded project or shake hands with poor Indians.

According to the UN more than 450 million Indians live in abject poverty whilst the country continues to develop its Space and Nuclear programmes.The UK spends  £1billion on aid to India, making India  the largest

recipient of British Aid.

However  this wasn’t the occasion to discuss how India could do more to help its poor, no this  was a trip to beg Indian business to come

and invest in the UK, bringing their skills  and experience along.

I’m still  not sure how that sits with Cameron’s desire to sharply restrict
Immigration from the Indian sub-continent, but that’s a conversation for another time.

This is not a criticism of the decision to completely ignore the poverty in India, however I’m rather curious if this would have been

the case had he visited an African Country.

The Chinese have realised that there’s business to be done in Africa, so when their leaders visit, there is less emphasis on Human rights and

Development  and more on exploring Trade and Business.

Some in  the western media often criticize China for its refusal to engage with African leaders on any other platform apart from Business and


Could this be the right way forward, could we envisage a western leader visiting Africa and not having the usual “Poverty Pornish” photo-call with poor Africans who have been helped by western donor funded


Imagine David Cameron visiting Nigeria and spending the entire trip pitching to Nigerian Businessmen and encouraging them to increase trade and

business in the UK.?

As opposed to talking about democracy, development and the great work DFID is doing there. I find it hard to picture that, it seems western leaders are simply unable to talk about Africa without focusing on how poor and destitute the place is, and how much help Africa needs from the west.
Tony Blair was the master at this, one of the gems he came up with was  “ Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world”

Lets face it  for the all the good  Aid has done I suspect the only way out of poverty for the 450million Indians is through trade and enterprise, same for the millions in Africa.

If we all agree that its trade that creates wealth ,isn’t it time we re-cast the relationship between Britain and Africa, instead of how of can we help reduce maternal deaths, should we be talking how we can open British markets to African businesses and vice-versa?

Surely the time has become for Britain to say to Africa…”We are open for business”

What do you think? Have your say below…

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