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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Africa fine-tunes development plan
Kenyan woman pumping water
The Nepad plan aims to combat poverty
African leaders are gathering in Durban, South Africa, to discuss a key plan for the continent's economic development just weeks before the time comes to argue the case with the world's richest states.

The three-day Africa Economic Summit which opens on Wednesday will tackle Africa's home-grown recovery plan, known as Nepad, which targets increased foreign investment and better economic growth.

James Wolfensohn, World Bank President
Mr Wolfensohn wants the rich countries to do more for Africa

The African nations have received the backing of the World Bank president, James Wolfensohn.

In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Wolfensohn urged the world's richest nations to lower their trade barriers to African exports.

He also called on rich countries to pledge that more than half of the new aid promised at the Monterrey Conference in March will go to Africa.

"Give us market access; give us a level playing field for our products and goods; give us a trade partnership that is more than just in name," said Mr Wolfensohn.

"That is what [African] leaders are saying. Is anyone listening?"

Fighting poverty

Nepad (New Partnership for Africa's Development) will take centre stage at the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations in Canada next month.

"There has never been a better time for Africa to restate its case, louder than ever, that it is ready for change and open for business," said Haiko Alfeld, director for Africa at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"The window of opportunity presented by the Nepad is matched by an unprecedented global commitment to fight poverty and inequality."

The international community must help, Mr Wolfensohn agreed, though Africa would also have to pull its weight.

"African countries need to follow through on the Nepad agenda and work to break down internal barriers to trade and investment that limit the ability of farmers to market their goods within Africa," he said.

All ears

Nepad says it hopes the summit will provide frank discussion between Africa, its international partners, business and civil society.

More than 750 participants from 48 countries have gathered in Durban, including South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Nepad founding countries
Algeria
Egypt
Nigeria
Senegal
South Africa
More than half of the attendees are business leaders, drawn principally from the Forum's members - 1,000 of the world's leading companies.

The annual meet has often been criticised for being an ineffectual talking-shop.

This year, the group has stressed its intentions to set out concrete steps for action and to listen to business leaders.

"Business would like to draw the debate down to shorter-term, practical issues - like what it can do to contribute to fighting corruption," said Michael Spicer, spokesman for mining giant Anglo-American.

The cost of failure

The summit will focus on what Africa will deliver through Nepad in terms of good governance, peace and security.

When Nepad was unveiled, in July, Africa had already suffered a decline in prosperity which had seen 34 of the continent's nations ranked among the world's least developed countries, compared with 27 in 1996.

Development aid to Africa fell from $24.2bn to $14.2bn between 1989 and 1999, while the United Nations said that foreign investment had been set to fall by 40% even before the 11 September attacks on the US.

"We must grasp this opportunity," Nepad strategy documents said.

"We cannot afford to fail."

The Nepad plan has come out of Africa, and is based largely on ideas drawn up separately by Mr Mbeki with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo.

African leaders are hoping to win yearly investments of $64bn for Africa, enabling annual economic growth of 7%.

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Michael Spicer, Anglo Gold
"Business has difficulty in dealing with rather abstract imperatives."
See also:

25 Mar 02 | Business
06 Feb 02 | Business
19 Mar 02 | Business
08 Feb 02 | Africa
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