Africa aid plan criticised
KANANASKIS, Canada -- Aid agencies say a new African development plan announced at the Group of Eight summit fails to provide a solid commitment to help the continent emerge from poverty.
The G8 ended its two-day summit on Thursday by endorsing the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD, as part of an African Action Plan that offers billions of dollars in new aid.
The exact amount has not yet been determined.
Initiated by African leaders, NEPAD is based on the idea that foreign investment will help spur development more than foreign aid, so African nations must create societies attractive to investors by embracing stability, the rule of law and good governance. (The NEPAD plan)
Aid groups, charities and other organizations that have called for more effective Western policies criticised the new partnership between world powers and Africa.
Independent aid groups said the plan, while detailed on what African nations must do, spectacularly failed to live up to its billing by British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a "Marshall Plan" for Africa.
Phil Twyford, a spokesman for Oxfam International, told Reuters: "Blair and company have spent a year talking up this summit, but in the end they have turned their backs on Africa."
"There is no new thinking," Njoki Njorge, director of the Washington-based 50 Years is Enough group, told The Associated Press. "We have seen the same old ideas be repackaged and renamed."
Njorge said the G-8 plan failed to emphasize the AIDS pandemic in Africa and that the only initiative regarding water involved privatisation, which denies access to poor people.
"We need a new environment where Africa can succeed, not one for multinational companies to engage in more partnerships or do more investments," she said.
Western and African leaders said only time would tell if the reforms and pledges called for under NEPAD were met, but they called it the best chance for some of the world's poorest countries to get help by taking responsibility for their problems.
"All of us are very pleased with this response of the G8, very pleased with the discussion that took place with them, very pleased with the commitment they made that we need all of us to move with speed to implement this decision," said South African President Thabo Mbeki, one of four African leaders who joined the summit talks on Thursday.
"All the conditions that are in this partnership will be hard work for both parties," said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who hosted the G8 summit and was a driving force for acceptance of the African plan.
Along with endorsing NEPAD, the action plan of the summit nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- offered help in ending some of Africa's most intractable conflicts.
The summit gave another $1 bn to a debt-relief program, and set a target of eradicating polio in Africa by 2005.
"NEPAD provides a framework for ending the conflicts, for stemming the flow of refugees ... and for improving the investment climate, the prerequisite for sustainable development on the continent," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who also attended Thursday's talks.
If the African nations and Western powers all fulfill their NEPAD commitments, Annan said, then the summit could be "a turning point in African history."
NEPAD says that to cut poverty in half, African countries must have annual economic growth above 7 percent for the next 15 years -- double the continent's average growth in 2001.
It also recommends accelerated debt relief, increases in development aid and better trade terms.
Russia has also become a focus of the summit, having been formally welcomed as a member of the G8 and invited to be host of the 2006 summit. (Russia joins G8 top table)
World leaders pledged on Thursday to raise up to $20 bn over the next decade to safeguard Russian chemical and nuclear weapons and components from terrorists. (Full story)
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