By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst
Can politicians help the African people escape poverty?
African finance ministers are meeting with heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to discuss how to protect the continent's economies from external shocks.
The meeting, which will be attended by development ministers from rich countries, will also seek to more effectively align World Bank and IMF policies with African governments' strategies to reduce poverty.
Meeting World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF Managing Director Hans Kohler will give the ministers an opportunity for a frank and informal dialogue.
As such, the so-called "Big Table" meeting in Washington will offer Africa a chance to put its own perspective on the table.
No formal statement will be issued following the meeting.
The African continent is frequently regarded as little more than an economic disaster, with only stories of death and destruction hitting the headlines.
In reality there is a more positive story to be told.
Last year, Africa managed over 3% economic growth overall, at a time when the rest of the world was in or close to recession.
Tuesday's meeting will not solve the continent's many ingrained problems overnight.
But it will look at how to protect African economies from rapid changes in commodity prices and the impact of adverse weather conditions.
Getting a hearing in Washington can only help Africa reach its long term goal of escaping from poverty.
The meeting is being convened by the Economic Commission for Africa, the regional arm of the
United Nations, mandated to support economic and social development.