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'Peanuts': G8 Leaders Launch New Plan for Africa

28 June 2002

Group of Eight leaders launched their long-awaited action plan for Africa, promising a new dawn for the continent, but aid activists said the promises amounted to peanuts.

Leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States issued a G8 Africa Action Plan Thursday to drive the continent's future development after meeting in this Canadian Rockies resort with four African leaders.

"This is not old fashioned aid, it is a genuine partnership for the renewal of Africa," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after the launch.

"We know it is not possible to change Africa unless Africa itself takes responsibility for leading that process of change."

South African President Thabo Mbeki later told a press briefing: "All of us are very very pleased with this response of the G8."

"We need, all of us, to move with speed to implement these decisions that have been taken."

Activists nonetheless said the G8 commitments amounted to very little.

"They are offering peanuts to Africa and repackaged peanuts at that," said Oxfam international advocacy director Phil Twyford.

"The thing that is most disappointing is that the leaders have spent the last year talking up this event as the moment they were going to deliver for Africa," Twyford said.

The G8 action plan responded to a pledge by Africans to produce clean government and strong economic policies in return for renewed investment and official state aid to battle HIV/AIDS, fight poverty and provide primary education for all.

Blair summed up the difference between old programs and this one, saying: "I think the past has been based on a very passive relationship between us giving money and them receiving it.

"What we're saying is from now on that's not the deal anymore. The deal is we're equal partners in this process."

The African commitments are contained in a home-grown New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), drawn up by Mbeki, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

All four leaders were here to press their case.

"We will match their commitment with a new commitment on our own part to promote peace and security in Africa, to boost expertise and capacity, to encourage trade and direct growth-oriented investment and to provide more effective official development assistance," the G8 action plan said.

G8 leaders noted that in the run-up to a major development conference, held in Monterrey, Mexico in March, they had announced new commitments boosting government aid by 12 billion dollars a year by 2006.

"Each of us will decide, in accordance with our respective priorities and procedures, how we will allocate the additional money we have pledged," the leaders said.

"Assuming strong African policy commitments, and given recent assistance trends, we believe that in aggregate half or more of our new development assistance could be directed to African nations that govern justly, invest in their own people and promote economic freedom."

The G8 vowed to fund its share of any shortfall in an IMF-World Bank program to provide debt relief to the most impoverished, debt-laden nations, known as the highly-indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative.

Anti-debt campaigners from the Jubilee USA activist group welcomed that commitment but said they had hoped indebted nations would get a completely new deal.

"We are disappointed that the G7 (the G8 minus Russia) is not agreeing to a new deal on debt," said Jubilee USA spokeswoman Mara Vandaslice.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said Africa may be at a turning point in its history if its leaders and the Group of Eight powers can fulfill their ends of the new bargain.

Published by Agence France Presse © 2002 AFP

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