Royal Dutch Shell Group .com UK Pledges $30 Million To African Business Fund: “Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Shell Foundation also announced that they would contribute a combined total of $2.5 million over five years…”: Friday 18 November 2005


Britain will provide $30 million over three years to a fund designed to lower the cost of doing business in Africa, an initiative also supported by a handful of mining and oil companies, Reuters reports Tony Blair said on Thursday.


The $500 million Investment Climate Facility aims to attract money and business to Africa and promote good governance there but it is unclear whether any other countries will follow Britain's lead and contribute. Businesses face obstacles in the world's poorest continent, said Hilary Benn, minister for international development. They struggle to overcome excessive regulation, corruption and anti-competitive practices.


The fund will support projects such as streamlining business registration and licensing systems. It will also help countries reform their customs and tax systems and remove barriers to competition. In Rwanda it takes 21 days to start a business compared with two days in Australia, according to Britain. In Burundi it takes 124 days to clear customs compared with five in Denmark. Benn said he hoped other countries and companies would participate.


The Associated Press further adds that the ICF is expected to become fully operational in mid-2006, once other donors and companies also have made their commitments. The program -- which has a lifespan of seven years -- aims to raise $120 million for its first three years of operation. It is being established as an independent trust, and will be governed by a board of trustees, most of whom will be African. "It will make Africa a better place to do business. The UK's $30 million contribution is our share to help get the facility up and running. It is time for all in the international community and the private sector to get behind this African initiative and give it maximum support," Blair said. Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Shell Foundation also announced that they would contribute a combined total of $2.5 million over five years, and Anglo American confirmed that it would contribute $2.5 million over the same period. The ICF, was recommended by the Commission for Africa and supported by this year's Group of Eight summit in Scotland, which Blair hosted as the G8 president.


BBC News writes that the aim is to prevent potential investors from being put off by Africa's image of having complex laws and weak or corrupt governments. Blair said he hoped other rich nations would follow the UK's example. At a Downing Street press conference, he said: "It is Africa itself that will lift Africa out of poverty. It is Africans themselves who will do the work. They want to do it. What they need is our help, but they are more than willing with that help to help themselves, and to achieve what they can achieve. That will happen when the conditions are right, when African business and enterprise can grow and when Africa gets the opportunity to trade with successful businesses in the way that it wants to." Blair said failure to provide a better climate for investment in Africa would do "damage not just to our own economies...but we will also do damage to the very development agenda that we highlighted so successfully at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles."


Agence France Presse adds the ICF will last for seven years.


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