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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 May, 2005, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Fresh call for end to Africa debt

Children in a Kenyan shanty town
Millions of Africans live in poverty without basic services
African finance ministers have ended three days of talks in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, with a call for the cancellation of Africa's debt burden.

In a closing statement, the conference described the continent's debt problems as a lingering legacy of colonialism.

The finance ministers agreed to urge their leaders to adopt a "militant and forceful position" on debt cancellation when they meet later this year.

Earlier this year the Africa Commission made a similar appeal for debt relief.

Ministers observed that many heavily indebted African nations could work harder to cut inefficiencies out of their economies.

Export issues

"The current level of African debt is not sustainable, and we have to look at ways of making sure that the debt does become sustainable," Maxwell Mkwezalamba, the African Union's commissioner for economic affairs, told the BBC.

"We have to look at our economies and see whether we can export more, and our domestic debt management policies, because this is where we tend to have problems."

Zambia's Finance Minister Ngandu Magande says his country is spending more on servicing foreign debt than on local issues such as education and health.

He praised the Africa Commission initiative and the efforts of Britain and France to campaign on African debt, but told the BBC that more needed to be done to help nations like Zambia meet development obligations.

The Africa Commission, launched by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, calls on developed nations to double aid to Africa, adding 30bn ($50bn) a year over 10 years.

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