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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 19:38 GMT 20:38 UK
African leaders press case for aid
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan: Has backed African economic plan

Leaders from four African nations and the United Nations have begun arriving in the western Canadian city of Calgary en route to meetings with members of the Group of Eight (G8) countries.

Their appearance represents the first time leaders outside the G8 have been asked to participate in talks during the annual meeting, being held this year high in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta.

The presidents of Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal have journeyed far to impress upon wealthy nations the need for increased aid to African countries.

The idea of promoting greater financial assistance to the impoverished continent is the brainchild of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

He called for such discussions when he first announced the location of this year's meeting in the tiny, secluded village of Kananaskis following the conclusion of last year's turbulent summit in Genoa, Italy.

Boosting aid

The Genoa meeting was marred by violence, and Mr Chretien hoped to bring the focus of the G8 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US - back to its relaxed, informal roots by moving the meetings to the rustic and remote resort village.

Recent crises, including last September's terror attacks and Israel's recent incursions into Palestine, have threatened to overtake talks on Africa assistance.

But Mr Chretien emphasised on Tuesday his commitment to make such aid a significant part of this year's summit.

In discussing the plight of African nations, the Canadian prime minister seeks to have his colleagues sign on to a comprehensive aid programme to further development and stem rising poverty.

African leaders will do their part to convey their message that their nations deserve a better deal.

In response, they will promise to improve governance and reduce corruption among Africa's more than 50 countries.

Sceptical Western nations have warmed to the idea of boosting aid to Africa in the months following the attacks of 11 September.

Some leaders have expressed the need to improve assistance to the nations of Africa and others as a way to avert acts of terrorism in the belief that terrorists act out of desperation.

Languishing poverty

Africa's needs are many. Aside from the startling rise of HIV/Aids, its nations lack clean water, electricity and basic infrastructure, such as roads, schools and hospitals.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed an initiative to boost aid to African nations, called the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), as a way to set Africa on a new, self-sustaining path to improved living standards.

Nepad has the backing of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has asked Western nations to put up the sums necessary to ensure its forthright implementation.

In stressing the need for such support, Mr Annan warned that even the richest of nations runs the risk of increased insecurity in world where poverty is so widespread.

Poverty, defined by the UN as those who exist on $1 a day or less, has not abated in the underdeveloped countries of Africa and south east Asia despite the vast increase in wealth by industrialised nations over the last decade.


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Aid debate

Africa's future

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See also:

25 Jun 02 | Business
24 Jul 01 | Americas
14 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Americas
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