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Africa welcomes G8 aid, but wonders on commitment

July 8, 2005

By Andrew Quinn

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa welcomed the Group of
Eight’s $25 billion boost in annual development aid on Friday,
but some activists said the rich world was still not committed
to the real steps needed to end African poverty.

The Group of Eight (G8) ended its Gleneagles summit in
Scotland announcing they would more than double aid to Africa
by 2010 and promising to work to end the farm export subsidies
that undercut Africa’s own agricultural products.

The pledge capped a dramatic month of global goodwill for
Africa marked by the worldwide Live 8 rock concerts and
promises by G8 leaders that they will stay focused on the
world’s poorest continent — even after their own summit was
thrown into chaos by Thursday’s London bomb attacks.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the chairman of the
African Union, pronounced himself satisfied with the Gleneagles
deal for Africa, whose 800 million people are still plagued by
war, disease and dire poverty.

But many African analysts, activists and aid workers said
the proposals, particularly on ending export subsidies for rich
nation farmers, were still too vague to underpin a turn-around
in the continent’s fortunes.

“It shows important progress. But people are still getting
poorer. People are still dying younger,” said David Sanderson,
Southern and Western Africa coordinator for the charity Care
UK.

Zambian Deputy Finance Minister Felix Mutati said the G8
decisions were encouraging, but insufficient in a global
trading system which still shuts African producers out of some
of the world’s richest markets.

“What we need most is fair trade because our farmers cannot
compete with farmers in the West. The whole issue of trade
hinges on farm subsidies and the quicker this is resolved the
better for us,” Mutati said.

DEMOCRATIC REWARD?

Africa’s leaders have tried hard to persuade Western
nations the continent is on the path to democracy and ending
war, despotism and corruption — all conditions for more
assistance.

But the situation at home remains dire. More than 40
percent of Africans live on less than $1 a day, 200 million
Africans are threatened by serious food shortages and AIDS
kills more than 2 million Africans a year.

Many African officials hoped the G8 summit would be an even
bigger boost for Africa, including wide cancellation of debt
and a commitment to increase development assistance to 0.7
percent of GDP for each wealthy nation.

“There should have been a clear signal on debt
cancellation,” said political analyst Robert Kabushenga in
Uganda, which spends $200 million a year on debt repayments.

Still, many agreed the huge increase in direct aid to
Africa would help, particularly on funding crucial efforts to
fight the continent’s HIV/AIDS pandemic and to help finance
African peacekeeping forces to police local conflicts.

But skepticism remained, with some Africans doubting the
West’s commitment to following through on its promises.

“If the decisions have been taken, they must be put into
practice as soon as possible,” Senegal’s Budget Minister Cheikh
Hadjibou Soumare said.

Other Africans had doubts about their own leaders, saying
that despite anti-graft campaigns far too much outside aid ends
up helping corrupt rulers.

“A lot of aid has gone to politicians, especially in
Nigeria,” said Nigerian Williams Sassou, chatting with
colleagues outside a run-down office block in central Lagos.

“We hear about billions here, billions there, but the
masses are not feeling these billions. This won’t change
anything unless the masses can know where the money is going.”
(additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in Lagos, Shapi
Shacinda in Lusaka, Peter Apps and Rebecca Harrison in
Johannesburg, David Mageria in Nairobi, Matt Green in Dakar)




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