Africa welcomes G8 aid
JOHANNESBURG: 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. 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 scepticism 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. reuters