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Blair's parting drive to aid Africa

The British prime minister wraps up his farewell tour to Africa this week, ahead of next week's G-8 summit in Germany.

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Not so long ago, many in the West hailed British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Africa's new savior: the European leader who shamed other rich countries into helping the impoverished continent he called the "scar on the conscience of the world."

But as he wraps up his final visit to Africa as prime minister this week, Mr. Blair is fighting growing criticism from aid groups and African governments that the Group of Eight (G-8) countries' much-heralded promises of assistance have come to naught.

Blair says the trip will build momentum ahead of next week's G-8 summit in Germany, where he will push for leaders to follow through on promises made in 2005. But it also shows the complexities of the G-8's relationship with this continent, as well as the skepticism with which many Africans view Western interventions.

"His personal leadership did ensure that Africa was high on the G-8's agenda like never before," says Aditi Sharma, head of the HIV-AIDS campaign for the nonprofit group Action Aid. "But now ... with lots of those promises off track, African people are starting to lose their trust."

This week, Blair visited Libya, where he praised improved relations with Muammar Qaddafi, and Sierra Leone, where he pledged $10 million for African Union peacekeepers. In South Africa on Thursday, Blair met with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, called for tougher action against Sudan over the crisis in Darfur, and emphasized the priority he has given to Africa during his tenure.

In a speech at the University of South Africa, Blair said both the West and Africa faced two possible paths.

"One is chosen by countries like South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana and many others, reinforcing economic growth with good governance and the stamping out of violence and corruption," he said. "The other, the path of Zimbabwe or Sudan, where bad government and violent oppression send the country's economy spiraling down. Our choice is to support the good. Africa's challenge is to eliminate the bad."

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