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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Africa presents its big idea
Peaceful protest in Genoa
Thousands of protesters are also in Genoa
By Peter Biles in Johannesburg

South African President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders at the G8 summit in Genoa have been presenting a recovery plan for the continent - A New African Initiative.

It is a wide-ranging programme, designed to reduce poverty and place Africa on a path of sustainable growth and development.


Africa recognises that it holds the key to its own development

New African Initiative
The 60-page document is the result of a merger of two separate plans drawn up in recent months.

President Mbeki, together with Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, had devised the so-called Millennium Africa Recovery Programme (MAP), while Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade had put forward the Omega Plan.

Poverty

The new merged plan points out that in Africa, 340 million people, or half the population, live on less than $1 a day.

"The poverty and backwardness of Africa stand in stark contrast to the prosperity of the developed world," it says.

Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki is in Italy with the backing of Africa's leaders
Five years ago, there were 27 African nations in the list of the world's least developed countries.

Today, that number has risen to 34.

For much of this year, President Mbeki has been trying to gather international support for Africa's recovery.

The South African leader raised the issue at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

More recently, he visited the United States, Britain and Germany.

Now the African leaders directly involved in A New African Initiative, are appealing to all the members of the G8 to back the plan.

Partnership

They are keen to stress that while foreign support is needed, Africa is not asking for more aid.

George Bush: criticised demonstrators
President Bush has backed the plan's goals
"In proposing the partnership, Africa recognises that it holds the key to its own development," states the document.

The African Initiative calls for a new relationship between Africa and the international community.

"In the past, European countries and the G8 focused on global financial structures and global economies", said Abdul Minty, South Africa's Foreign Affairs Deputy Director-General.

"The decisions they were taking, affected the South very severely, and the South had no voice. Now there is a very important dialogue between developed and developing countries," he said.

African integration

The launch of the recovery plan coincides with the emergence of the new African Union, replacing the 38-year-old Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Speaking in a recent BBC interview, President Mbeki said that for African countries which were poorer and less able to stand on their own than developed nations, the drive towards integration was far more urgent.

A New African Initiative offers hope to a continent that is now trying to avoid being further marginalised in the global marketplace.

However, African leaders acknowledge that they must bring an end to conflict on the continent if there is to be investment and growth.

"If they spend more time discussing the economy, perhaps they won't fight as much," a leading African Union official commented optimistically.

The real test of the recovery plan for Africa will be how the ideas that have now been drafted, can be translated into the action needed to tackle the enormous economic and social problems facing Africa.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"Across the continent 340 million people live on less than one US dollar a day"
The BBC's Barnaby Mason
"They have invited the Presidents of several developing countries"
See also:

20 Jul 01 | Business
Economic clash looms in Genoa
20 Jul 01 | Europe
Genoa hosts summit under siege
17 Jul 01 | Talking Point
African Union: Can it work?
09 Jul 01 | Africa
Q&A: African Union
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