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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
West urged to lift African imports
Participants meet for the annual conference of the African Development Bank
Delegates at the meeting want investment in Africa not aid
By the BBC's Flora Botsford in Valencia.

Meetings of the African Development Bank have got underway in the Spanish city of Valencia.

The bank's president, Omar Kabbaj, has called for the European Union and other Western countries to reduce tariffs on imports from African countries.
President of the African Development Bank, Omar Kabbaj
Omar Kabbaj: Main focus on poverty reduction

He said this would improve access to world markets and stimulate growth.

More than a thousand participants from 78 countries are attending the bank's annual conference.

This is the first time in the bank's history that the conference is being held outside Africa.

Focus on poverty

Opening the meetings, Mr Kabbaj said the main focus was on poverty reduction in Africa - which still has the world's lowest average annual income at $315 per capita.

A strong move to stimulate the private sector was the solution, he said, not further aid and debt.

Africa needed growth of 7% for a steady period of 10-15 years in order to reduce poverty by half.

This year's growth is expected to be 3.5%.

The example he gave was Uganda, which since the early 1990's had enjoyed a growth rate of 7% and had managed in that time to reduce poverty from 56% in the early 1990s, to its current level of 44%.

Stimulating growth

The most important tool for stimulating growth was for countries in the developed world to reduce tariffs for African exports.

He appealed to the European Union and other Western governments to review their trade policies and expand their imports from Africa.

Mr Kabbaj also spoke of the heavy burden of Aids as not just a health problem for Africa but a developmental one.

Twenty million Africans are living with Aids, while 17 million have died of the disease, leaving up to 11 million orphans.

Meanwhile, government aid flowing into Africa has dropped to $14bn from $25bn in 1990.

Future plans

Mr Kabbaj's words echo a new spirit of determination among African leaders that the continent can be rescued from its desperate status only by partnership with the private sector and the developed world.

The Presidents of South Africa, Nigeria, and Algeria have drawn up an African "Marshall" plan which has been given tacit approval by the World Bank and the IMF.

Like the original Marshall Plan - set up by the United States to help European reconstruction efforts after World War Two - it focuses on economic development.

The African version also demands peace and good government in exchange for foreign assistance.

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See also:

28 May 01 | Business
African bank hit by protests
28 Apr 01 | Business
Africa pushes for more IMF reforms
20 Feb 01 | Business
IMF policy comes under fire
16 Feb 01 | Business
Africa's economy under spotlight
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