Former British prime minister Tony Blair has become a well-known mediator in Africa through his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), a non-profit consulting group that seeds young graduates and international experts among the advisory councils of African presidents, ministers, and government agencies. Blair and TBI’s influence in Africa can be traced back to 2008, when he was asked to advise Rwandan president Paul Kagame. With the Rwandan economic success story serving as a desirable model to replicate, Blair’s name and phone number have been passed around, leading to consultations with the presidents of Senegal, Gambia, Liberia, and Togo, the vice-president of Ghana, and Ethiopia’s former and current prime ministers.
TBI has consulted for sixteen African administrations, ten of which are in West Africa. In 2018, the group assisted Guinea in negotiations with the Export-Import Bank of China to get a US$1.3 billion financing package for a hydropower plant. In the same year, it also aided in securing financing for 1,600 kilometers of electrical wiring between Senegal, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
Besides directly engaging with African government bodies, TBI also works to build an attractive portfolio for international investors, furnishing them with data regarding available workforce, market trends, costs estimates, and other economic metrics to obtain foreign direct investment needed for structural overhaul of sectors like Togo’s telecommunications industry.
Why Does This Matter?
Greater international attention is shifting toward Africa due to the continent’s average growth rate eclipsing that of more industrialized centers like Europe and North America. Multinational corporations are looking to entities like the Tony Blair Institute for guidance as to where global economic headwinds are moving, and which regions and countries in Africa they should be investing in now to reap the profits later.
The presence of a former British PM in Africa is also key for a post-Brexit United Kingdom’s international trade policy. Business relationships built up with foreign actors through organizations like TBI are critical for Great Britain to bounce back from the inevitable shock upon its formal exit from the European Union at the end of this year. More importantly, it gives both the United Kingdom and Africa greater flexibility on the global market amid China’s continued advance as a world economic superpower and the country’s heavy investment on the continent.