Tony Halliday was one of the core founding members of the Africa Study Group, an open-ended informal association of professionals passionate about Africa who were affiliated with the national capital branch of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (later the CIC). The ASG was conceived both as a discussion forum to expand awareness of Africa’s importance to Canada, and as a ‘ginger group’ to promote closer cooperation between Canada and Africa in all relevant domains.
The initial chair of the Africa Study Group was Bob Fowler, at that time recently retired from his role as the Prime Minister’s personal rep for Africa. There was unanimous consent when Bob selected Tony Halliday as his hand-picked successor, after Bob took on the fateful role as the UN SRSG for Niger in mid-2008. Tony chaired the ASG for two years until August 2010, and remained an active member after Paul Hitschfeld (and later Louise Ouimet) took over as Chair.
Tony was an inveterate trade policy wonk, who had drafted a paper on Canada-Africa trade for discussion at the June 27, 2007 meeting of the ASG in response to the Canadian Senate report entitled “Overcoming Forty Years of Failure — a New Roadmap for SSA” –, which Tony found disappointing.
Tony proposed that Canada enter into defensive bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with African countries to overcome the inbuilt bias of European and American cooperation agreements with Africa. Though the ASG promoted the proposal to the private sector lobby, the Canadian Council on Africa, and to the Department of International Trade, the negotiation of FTAs with African countries did not gain traction.
As Chair of the ASG, Tony drafted the first of several ASG op-eds in reaction to the February 2009 announcement by the Conservative Government cutting the number of African priority aid recipients from 15 to 7 — which he described as Canada ‘turning its back on Africa’.
Tony was also very active on the southern African file, especially regarding Zimbabwe. In January 2008, he drafted a paper on Mugabe’s land reforms, deploring the disastrous effects they were having on the agricultural sector and beyond. Mugabe’s fast track seizure of white farms, which up to that point employed 30% of the formal labour force, 70 percent of the total population, and underpinned 60% of the industrial base and 50% of GDP, led to massive unemployment and runaway inflation in Zimbabwe.
Tony also presented a paper to the ASG in 2008 on “re-engagement with Zimbabwe after Mugabe”, in which Tony reckoned that putting Zimbabwe back on its feet would require $750 million of new money per year over ten years from the international community, of which Canada’s share would be about $30 million per year.
He also organized an ASG discussion on David Moore’s paper entitled “When I’m a Century Old — Why Robert Mugabe Must Go”. Sad to say, Mugabe didn’t go then. Nor subsequently, since he is only 92.
In the spring of 2009, Tony wrote an eight page outline for a holistic paper on “Rethinking Africa: A new policy approach”, which promised fresh perspectives and ideas to enable the ASG to approach CIDA and private organizations to seek funding for a “Rethink of African Development”.
The outcome to which Tony aspired was an Africa “which would be integrated into today’s world, closely implicated in major international debates, sharing global concerns, and offering its own valuable ideas and resources”.
In October 2010, he prepared an outline for a study on Canada’s ODA to Africa. and he participated actively in an ASG sub-group which was struck to pursue the study.
In February 2012, he presented a paper on “A Canadian Trade Policy for Africa” in which he argued that though Africa accounted for only 1 per cent of visible trade with Canada, the potential for market growth was the highest of any continent. He came back to the idea that in confronting an uneven playing field, Canada’s tariff treatment of African imports should be conditional on the absence of discrimination against Canadian exports in favour of other industrialized countries. At the same time Canada should promote closer economic integration in Africa, and CIDA should develop model aid packages for African LDC’s which are willing to enter into non-discriminatory free trade agreements with Canada.
More recently, Tony mused on “Sixty Years of Failure in SSA”, the period of mostly slow growth in sub-Saharan Africa corresponding grosso modo to the period since decolonization. Unlike most analysts, he attributed the failure of SSA not to their shortcomings in applying the neo-colonial model, but to fatal flaws in the model itself. He laid much of the blame for Africa’s slow emergence at the feet of western countries which had imposed their values and policies of development as if they were universal in scope — when in fact they came out of western experience and did not necessarily apply to countries with different cultural backgrounds.
Sadly, Tony was diagnosed to have an incurable illness in the summer of 2015. That in no way diminished his concern for his beloved Africa, nor his zeal to set it right.
Though already bedridden, he produced the outline in October 2015 of a project which he described as a “New Vision for Africa” which he urged the Africa Study Group to pursue.
Characteristically, despite his failing health, he wrote to ASG colleagues at the end of October that he was “attaching some notes including citations relating to what (he hoped) will be an ASG project of examining the continuing role of the West in Africa”. He added that if his health improves, he would be pleased to comment from time to time on any work undertaken. That was not to be.
As one of his last bequests, he was concerned to find a suitable home for his Africana book collection, so that the knowledge could be accessed by new students of Africa. He had the satisfaction of knowing before he passed away that Saint Paul University agreed to accept his donation and add the books on Africa to their permanent library collection.
His legacy shall live on.
Author: Aubrey Morantz, executive member of ASG