Aid agencies say rescue plan for Africa falls far short of what is needed


A rescue plan for Africa from the world's richest economies has been attacked as "woefully inadequate" by aid agencies for its failure to deliver the big boost called for by the continent's leaders.

Last-ditch attempts by Britain and Canada to persuade the US and Japan to designate US$6 billion (stg£4.1 billion) of aid for Africa, as part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), met with only partial success yesterday.

In a joint communiqué, the Group of Eight nations said that they could spend half of the aid package agreed earlier this year on Africa.

"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 communiqué said.

The offer is dependent on African nations improving their political governance.

"Africa has to live up to its side of the bargain," said the official spokesman for the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, who had been lobbying vigorously for extra money.

"This is a real, significant, substantial step forward," said the Nigerian President, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, who was one of the architects of NEPAD along with the South African and Algerian presidents. "Of course, there is nothing that is human that can be regarded as perfect. It is the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do."

But aid agencies said that the international response fell far short of the help needed to lift Africa out of poverty. Hopes for a package of better trade access and a substantial aid boost were disappointed, prompting an angry reaction by campaigners. "They're offering peanuts," said Mr Phil Twyford, of Oxfam.

Cafod, the Catholic aid organisation, said that the G8 summit had offered "only rhetoric and recycled promises". The action plan was a "squandered opportunity" lacking a serious commitment to meet UN development goals of halving poverty in Africa by 2015.

The NEPAD proposals calculated that an extra $64 billion of annual financing was needed to meet the UN targets.

Ahead of the summit in Calgary, Britain and Canada had been pressing for the European Union and the US to promise half of the extra $12 billion in international aid which they jointly pledged at a UN conference earlier this year.

But the summit communiqué in part reflected US reluctance to commit to a new aid announcement, preferring to decide unilaterally how to spend the extra money. "You have to welcome the attention on Africa, but they have failed to respond to NEPAD's proposals," Cafod stated.

President Jacques Chirac of France used yesterday's meeting to make a strong plea for increased assistance to Africa. "I am asking all countries to react," he told his G8 colleagues. "The evils which are overcoming Africa wound us as well."

Mr Andrew Pendleton, a spokesman for Christian Aid, said that the G8 leaders were running away from the Marshall Plan-style initiative which had been proposed for Africa. - (Financial Times Service)

Reuters adds: Mr Tony Blair, who pledged last year to heal the "scar" of African poverty, put a brave face on the deal. On the eve of this week's summit Mr Blair had said that Britain would raise its bilateral aid to Africa by 60 per cent to £1 billion ($1.5 billion) a year within four years, effectively challenging his G8 partners to follow suit.