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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 18:08 GMT
Africa report - one year on
By David Loyn
BBC Developing World correspondent

A year after the Commission for Africa report was released and there have been some achievements, but the biggest change would have been to make trade fairer for Africa and that remains elusive.

Nigerian woman carrying firewood
Many Africans still endure the burden of poverty
The "Doha round" of world trade talks, which was supposed to redress inequalities in favour of development, remains a long way from such a solution.

On the plus side of the score card for the Africa Commission, more debts have been cancelled, with the principle established for the first time that the poorest countries need 100% debt relief.

Debt relief was controversially extended to improve education in Nigeria, where corruption and conflict have swallowed the country's natural wealth.

On aid, the world is a long way short of agreeing to double aid for Africa, the report's bold ambition.

But there has been progress. America is moving towards increases, despite the failure of its last big idea, the so-called "Millennium Challenge Account", to deliver even a fraction of the money promised.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, previously an aid sceptic, says that she will try to meet Germany's commitments.

Technical ways to raise more money have progressed even if the hard cash is not there yet.

Innovative solutions

France's long-held ambition to raise a "development levy" on air travel has won supporters, while Britain's International Financing Facility - borrowing money to spend on aid now - is also gaining international acceptance.

A special IFF aimed at raising $4bn for immunisation has been agreed, and will issue its first bonds next month.

The world knows what needs to be done. It just has to do it
Salil Shetty
UN Millennium Goals Campaign
This money could save five million lives by 2015.

One of the bigger ideas to emerge since the Commission for Africa report came out as a commitment to fund free treatment to all HIV sufferers by 2010.

But there is no clear view of how this will be funded. The health area is one where Africa's own commitment will be most crucial in making a real change.

The Commission for Africa proposed innovative solutions to enable African countries to hold onto trained health workers rather than losing them to better-paid jobs in the developed world.

Key to success in this will be competent delivery of health care reforms in Africa.

On education, the Commission for Africa's boldest proposal - much more funding for higher education - is a long way from being delivered.

The aim was for $500 million a year over 10 years.

Woolly

A year on, the British government's review of the process talks only of the need "for a new framework that will identify priority areas for action".

Poorest continent:
How Africa compares with the rest of the world

It is the kind of woolly language that makes development veterans wince, and much less than was promised a year ago.

Africa has seen Commissions come and go for too long.

The Head of the UN's Millennium Goals Campaign, Salil Shetty, said in London this week: "The world knows what needs to be done. It just has to do it."

Despite the patchy progress, there is no doubting the continuing commitment of the British government to the process.

The Commission for Africa is not to be consigned to a library shelf as another grand scheme which did not deliver.

A source close to Tony Blair said that in each of the different objectives, the key was that there was now "a path forward", ie a clear direction, even if the objectives had not been fully realised.


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