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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Leaders pledge action on economy
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, and South African President Thabo Mbeki
Only effective cooperation can solve Africa's problems
By Dan Isaacs in Nigeria

A meeting of African leaders called to promote trade and sound economic management has ended in Nigeria with a call to double the continent's economic output.

Nigeria's President Olesegun Obasanjo closed the meeting with a call for African nations to work out their own solutions to the continent's problems collectively rather than rely on initiatives imposed on them from outside.

African nations must put firmly put the Afro-pessimists and other cynics to shame

President Obasanjo of Nigeria

The plan to be known now as the New Partnership for African Development is the brain child of various African heads of state including President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

The plan is ambitious - some would say unattainable.

The targets speak for themselves: More than doubling African economic output and sustaining those increased levels for the next 15 years.

Convince the world

But it is widely recognised that Africa's economic decline is too serious to be reversed without major structural reforms and the slowdown in the global economy makes an African recovery all the harder in the short term.

Despite these almost insurmountable odds, the purpose of this summit has been to set out a vision and not a nuts-and-bolts master plan.

Tony Blair and George W Bush
Africa will need support from the West with its new plan

President Obasanjo, who chaired Tuesday¿s meeting, made it very clear that this was an opportunity for Africa to convince the world that it is serious in its efforts to create stability and growth.

African nations, he said in his opening address, must firmly put the Afro-pessimists and other cynics to shame.

Unified face

Grand plans to reverse economic decline in Africa are nothing new but this latest initiative does at least have the backing of Africa's most influential leaders, including President Mbeki.

But funding is needed for these plans to encourage trade within Africa and to promote sound economic management.

And part of the idea behind the summit has been to present a unified coherent face towards the rest of the world, saying in effect that it is safe and worthwhile to invest in Africa.

But the sums required are large and there are few who would hold out much optimism that in the current world economic climate Africa can buck the trend.

See also:

23 Jan 01 | Business
Africa's Millennium plan
23 Jan 01 | Business
Bridging the digital divide
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