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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
African leaders discuss growth plan
The BBC's Dan Isaacs
By Dan Isaacs
BBC correspondent in Nigeria

Refugees flee fighting in Sierra Leone
Nepad is attempting to monitor countries' reforms and rights records

Leaders from across Africa have gathered in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to discuss the economic regeneration programme for the continent, known as Nepad, or the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

It is a plan that has the backing of leaders of industrialised nations, who promised increased aid in return for governance reforms across the continent.

The summit comes one day before Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo is sworn in for a second four-year term as Nigeria's head of state.

Nepad has been a project slow to get off the ground.

It won much praise when it was launched as an African-led initiative to reform economies, fight corruption and promote democratic values.

Tough task

Leaders of the G8 industrialised nations last year promised, in principle, to provide aid and debt relief in support of Nepad.

But at their meeting next month in France, these same leaders of the world's richest nations are likely to ask for concrete results from the programme before committing funds.

Of particular interest will be the progress Nepad leaders have made towards implementing a peer review mechanism, to monitor each other's human rights and democratic reforms.

Many outside the African continent are disappointed that a tougher line has not been taken against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose country is facing a severe economic crisis as a result of what his critics see as poor leadership and heavy-handed attempts to hold onto power through undemocratic means.

It will be a tough task for Nepad leaders to convince the G8 to make firm pledges of funds at this stage, particularly with attention focused on the massive aid programme required in rebuilding Iraq.

Three of the main architects of the Nepad programme - presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, and the host, Olesegun Obasanjo, are all due to attend the summit in Abuja.

But the fourth, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, will not be coming.

He will be staying at home to deal with the aftermath of the country's recent earthquake.

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