Springing from the efforts of the British government, the Department for International Development (DFID) mobilizes and manages the country’s assistance to developing countries and is ultimately concerned with eradicating extreme poverty on a global scale. Besides extending aid directly or indirectly to Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe, DFID is also supporting thirty countries in sub-Saharan Africa through various programs geared towards the reduction of poverty, the promotion of peace and better trade, and the improvement of health care, and education.
The Honorable Shriti Vadera is presently one of the DFID’s three Parliamentary Undersecretaries of State, and is tasked with the responsibility of helping the Department forge long-term and fruitful partnerships with developing countries, as well as assuring seamless relations with other international development partners, multilateral development banks, and bilateral donors.
One of Ms. Vadera’s current concerns is helping African countries implement better trade practices, and the route towards achieving that is fraught with challenges, one of which is to change the world’s perception of the investment climate in some African countries. “Too often our perceptions of Africa are colored by the disproportionate news coverage of crisis in an ever smaller number of countries. It is a sad fact that wars, famines, and isolated cases of sky high inflation make better news stories than political and economic stability and steady growth,” she said in a recent speech she delivered at the City of London Corporation and DFID Rwanda and Tanzania’s investment symposium. “I am not going to pretend that all countries present equally attractive investment opportunities. Rewards do exist for those investors who take the time to differentiate between countries and seek out the reformers.”
Despite this, Ms. Vadera believes that investment prospects in some African countries are more than promising, particularly for Rwanda and Tanzania. “Over the last ten years Rwanda has grown by 7.4 percent per year and Tanzania 5.4 percent in real terms. Adult literacy rates at 65 percent and 69 percent respectively are higher than India’s,” she pointed out. “And with increasing numbers of the diaspora returning and bringing new skills and business ideas, the human resource base in many countries continues to strengthen.”
Born in Uganda, Ms. Vadera was a UBS Warburg Investment Banker; before her appointment as Junior Development Minister in June 2007, she served as the Special Adviser to Gordon Brown when he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. She studied philosophy, politics, and economics in Somerville College, Oxford.
Ms. Vadera has expressed great enthusiasm about where sub-Saharan countries may be headed for in the next decade or so, and is just as optimistic about how the DFID can pave the path towards sustainable development and progress for committed partner countries in the continent. “Perhaps for the first time we all have a sense of optimism in Africa,” she muses. “In countries like Rwanda and Tanzania there is political commitment to continue with reforms and we will remain their partners to support these reforms.”