I'm pleased to have this chance to write in New African magazine and the opportunity to set out why I believe the future of Africa matters to everyone of us wherever we live and why, despite the colossal challenges ahead, I believe there is cause for optimism.
For I am convinced there is now an opportunity for Africa to begin at last to fulfil its boundless promise for the benefit of the 700 million people who live there.
This promise rests on the richness and variety of the land and the energy, resilience and potential of Africa's people. This opportunity rests on a new generation of African leaders determined to release this potential and a new determination among the developed countries to help them.
This new spirit of partnership between reforming African governments and the world's richer countries was the backdrop to my visit to West Africa earlier this month (February) and is the reason for my confidence about the future.
No one should, however, underestimate the challenges Africa faces. The initial optimism which rightly spread across the continent as countries gained independence has far too often disappeared in conflict, corruption and poverty. The bare facts and statistics make grim reading.
While the world overall has become more prosperous over the last 30 years, the average income per head in Africa has actually fallen. Nearly half of the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.00 a day.
An African child dies every three seconds. Two hundred million Africans have no access to health services. Over 20 million Africans have died of Aids in the last two decades.
Corruption is rampant. Many governments in the continent are weak. And since 1960, over eight million Africans have died as a result of war.
That's why I said last year that the state of Africa was a scar on the conscience of the world, and why I believe we have a clear moral imperative to do more to help Africa.
And there are signs of hope that international support can help lift people out of poverty. In Uganda, with debt relief and substantial support from DFID, poverty has been reduced by 20% and school enrolment has doubled.
There are those, of course, who appear to believe that Africa's problems are nothing to do with Britain. They seem to suggest that we should retreat within our own borders and ignore the rest of the world whenever we can.
I have never believed that's a credible position for a country such as Britain.
Security for all