Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2011

Not Just Aid: How Making Government Work Can Transform Africa

Tony Blair

December 2010

Center for Global Development


My central message to the traditional development community is that to get the leadership you say you want from African countries, you need to start by putting yourself in the shoes of leaders themselves. In this essay, I want to set out what I think the development community needs to do to make this commitment to country leadership a reality. My argument is threefold. First, leadership is fundamentally about getting things done. No two countries are alike, but what I have learned from my own time in office and from speaking to leaders across the world is that the challenges of government are—perhaps surprisingly—similar whether you are in London, Delhi or Accra. You need a vision for where you want to take the country, rooted in people’s aspirations for themselves and their families. You need to be willing to make tough choices and be disciplined about what you focus on, which is politically difficult. But the really hard part is putting in place the machinery that will make it happen. Government is a race between expectations and capability. As a leader, you either reform government fast enough to deliver what people expect of it, or you lose the support to govern. I know from my own experience how demanding this can be.