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I'm frustrated that I can no longer change Scotland..but I've been given the chance to change another small country; Jack McConnell on his mission with Clinton Former First Minister Jack McConnell proves there is life after losing power and in an exclusive interview talks about working with Bill Clinton and Sir Tom Hunter to fight African poverty.

Byline: By MARK AITKEN Political editor

HE could have been sitting in a boardroom pulling a nice six-figure sum on top of his First Minister's pension.

But Jack McConnell insists he turned down "serious money" for a voluntary role fighting child poverty in Africa with Sir Tom Hunter and Bill Clinton.

McConnell admits there has been a void in his life since May 3 when, by just one seat, he went from Scotland's most powerfull man to its third ex-First Minister.

But he has refused lucrative job offers and will instead head up education programmes in Malawi and Rwanda.

After stepping down as Scottish Labour leader, he has joined the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, working with the former US President and the Scottish entrepreneur in their drive to tackle poverty.

He has witnessed first-hand the poverty and hardships both countries suffer.

McConnell said: "I have seen communities where people live in huts and where school doesn't meet if it rains.

"My motivation is seeing new hospitals help save lives and young people receiving a decent education.

"I could have walked away and made serious money but I want to use my skills to change things for the better."

In Malawi most people die by the age of 40 and the average wage is pounds 15 a month.

Rwanda is struggling to rebuild itself after years of civil war and genocide.

The scheme will invest pounds 60million over 10 years to help communities develop a sustainable economy.

McConnell, 47, a maths teacher before entering politics, will play a key role in improving education.

He said: "No longer being First Minister, I felt frustration that I could not make the changes I wanted to see in Scotland.

"But I have been given a fresh opportunity to help change another small country that desperately needs it. Going to Malawi and being reminded of how talented the youngsters are there has re-energised me.

"I have come back even more motivated to help make that difference."

McConnell will remain MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw until 2009 but will visit Africa in his spare time.

He said: "We are looking at how we can increase teacher numbers - Aids has been a massive killer - and improve training.

"I can talk comfortably both to government ministers about what needs to be done and to teachers and pupils.

"There is no reason why youngsters in Africa cannot have a decent education in the same way as youngsters in Scotland.

"If I can help make that happen, then it is a privilege as well as an opportunity."

As First Minister, McConnell was responsible for an agreement with Malawi in 2005 that involved Scotland offering practical help in improving health and education.

The Scottish government has invested more than pounds 6million in the country.

McConnell said: "The situation is still desperate but I sense an improvement in the infrastructure.

"People are living better than they were two years ago. They are moving in the right direction.

"In 2005 I believed people in Scotland cared what was happening in Africa and would respond to the call for action.

"But I never believed it would be on the scale we are now seeing. There are thousands of Scots now involved in helping Malawi."

When McConnell quits Holyrood in two years, he will become British High Commissioner to Malawi.

He said: "It is a chance to represent the British government in Malawi and provide a focal point for Scots coming to the country and helping development there."

The move to Malawi means an end to his career in Scottish politics.

But he added: "There won't be a day when I don't think about what is happening in Scotland and whether it is moving in the right direction."

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m.aitken@sundaymail.co.uk

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Challenge: McConnell is helping kids in Malawi
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 4, 2007
Words:639
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