A change is gonna come

A year ago, we asked on this page, “Is there a chance that 2005 could win its place in history as the year the world finally recognised – and acted upon – the scandal of poverty in (Africa)?” The answer is, yes. There are caveats of course, as Paul Vallely points out in What a difference a year makes… but as he concludes, we have made “a massive step in the right direction”.

The launch of the Make Poverty History Campaign, the report of the Africa Commission, the global TV drama that was Live 8 and the G8 meeting at Gleneagles all came together to put Africa front of mind for millions of people. Real change was delivered: the Gleneagles summit pledged to implement 50 of the Africa Commission’s 90 recommendations, including a doubling of aid to $50 billion a year by 2010.

Unfortunately, the WTO talks in Hong Kong didn’t deliver but while negotiations on trade-distorting subsidies continue into 2006, hope is not extinguished that real reform of global trade will yet ignite the fight against poverty.

On that subject, we recommend you get hold of a free copy Trade Matters, written by the developments team. Visually striking, but jargon-free, the booklet sets out how trade offers developing countries the best route out of poverty.

The ability to trade will always depend on a host of other factors, none more important than education. It is heartening, therefore, to report on the dramatic success of Nigeria in attracting Muslim parents to send their daughters to school. That girls outnumber boys by two to one in such Islamic schools is a hopeful indicator in “Africa’s giant”, Nigeria. In fact there seems to be a spirit of change in the country after decades of military rule and corruption, a spirit embodied by powerful women. And while optimism must be tempered in a country of Nigeria’s size and history, the recent historic cancellation of $30 billion of its debt – a hard won victory whose story is told in A new start – promises a genuine new start. “We are restless for tangible change”, says Abdul, a young Nigerian journalist. Maybe 2006 will be the year of Nigeria?