13 February 2013

Mozambique: British Deputy Prime Minister Visits Maputo

Maputo — British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Wednesday praised the work undertaken by the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) in supporting small scale agricultural producers in the central Mozambican provinces of Manica, Sofala and Tete.

Launched in 2010, BAGC is a partnership between the Mozambican government, private companies and donor agencies, including the British Department for international Development (DFID).

Clegg, who is on a two day working visit to Mozambique, declared that the initiative will bring substantial and positive changes in the lives of farmers in the areas covered.

He was speaking to journalists after visiting an exhibition of BAGC agricultural products on display at the Mozambican Agricultural Research Institute. He was optimistic that, through the BAGC, which intends to involve small and medium producers in the development of sustainable commercial agriculture, small farmers will gain access to markets.

Clegg was also briefed on the Ndzilo project, which seeks to encourage the use of environment-friendly stoves. These are stoves that use ethanol as their fuel, and it is hoped that the spread of such stoves will limit the deforestation resulting from the use of charcoal or firewood.

Clegg visited a Maputo family who were using the ethanol stove to cook a meal. He declared that this use of clean fuels will have a positive impact, not only on the environment, but also on human health.

Last year, Ndzilo inaugurated an ethanol factory in Dondo, in the central province of Sofala, which can produce 5,000 litres a day, obtained from cassava purchased from small farmers.

Ndzilo is a project of CleanStar Mozambique, which was founded by the US company CleanStar Ventures in 2010. Its other investors and strategic partners include Novozymes of Denmark, the US ethanol technology contractor ICM and Bank of America Merril Lynch.

On Thursday, Clegg will be received by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, and will attend the “Challenge Mozambique” Fund, intended to promote girls’ education.

Before setting out for this African tour, which will also take him to Ethiopia, Clegg stressed the need to crack down on company tax evasion in poor countries.

“For too long the developed world ignored the way in which tax revenues, which rightfully belonged to developing countries, disappeared as people exploited different tax regimes, and made a mockery of governments in the developing world”, he said. “To disrupt the vicious cycle of inequity in the systems of tax and trade, we must first create a level playing field whereby responsible and thriving companies are attracted to trade and to do business in a fair and transparent way”.

Cited by the BBC, Clegg declared “As the UK will meet its promise to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on development aid in 2013, it is vital that the benefits of aid are not wiped out by losses sustained by multinationals or by individuals gaming countries’ tax systems”.

The head of the British NGO Action Aid, Melanie Ward, said that Clegg was “absolutely right to focus on the impact that tax dodging has on developing countries. A real assault on tax avoidance has the potential to transform the fate of developing countries”.

But this required action by the British government as it takes over the rotating chairmanship of the G8 group of most industrialized countries.

“Only a landmark new G8 agreement to destroy the secrecy offered by tax havens, coupled with budget measures to force British companies to open up about their tax avoidance can deliver the change that is so badly needed”, said Ward.

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