[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
G8 pledges - from optimism to anger
Malnourished child at Wajir District hospital in Kenya
Despite the G8's promises, Kenyans continues to suffer

BBC News is investigating how Africa is faring one year on from the promises of increased aid made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

Kenyan journalist John Kamau kept a diary during the summit, writing about his experiences for the BBC News website. Here he looks back, and sums up his feelings now.

I remember wading through the multitude of placard-waving protestors at Meadows Park in Edinburgh just as last year's G8 Summit was set to begin at Scotland's Gleneagles resort.

The air was pregnant with expectations that Africa was finally back on the G8 agenda - and on the road to economic recovery.

As one of the few African journalists covering the march, as well as the G8 summit overall, I could not hide my admiration for the young and the old who told me they had come to "confront and change the G8 rhetoric".

They did not want to wallow in the G8's miasma of deceit, and had come instead to "make G8 history" as one protester's sign aptly said.

The rhetoric used to supposedly make poverty history has now come to nothing and Africa is still the same one year later.

Of course, we were not expecting someone to wave a magic wand and solve all our ills.

But the G8's much vaunted promise to boost development aid by $50bn is still mired in controversy over whether it was "old" or "new" money.

Trade Justice

We were taken for a ride and looking back I feel angry, or just terribly cheated

While debts have been cancelled for 18 of the poorest African countries, the begging bowl is still out as the move has yet to make a difference.

It was openly said that unless trade justice issues were also sorted out alongside debt cancellation there would be no miracle cure.

I still remember the words of Kumi Naidoo, chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty: "The people have roared but the G8 has whispered".

I could not have put it better. Instead of taking a stand world leaders were dragging their feet.

Those of us who read the Commission on Africa Report - instigated by the UK's Prime Minister - had some hope that trade issues would form part of the breakthrough, since the report clearly addressed the issue.

I had heard some people say the report had nothing new, but I was willing to give the G8 a chance and not simply give in to non-governmental lobby groups and pressure campaigns.

I remember speaking to many people and in all our talks I heard them promise that from then on they, the masses, would "force" the political establishment to make a serious policy commitment to the world's poor.

Stalled plans

Looking back, it appears that the journey towards global equity has not even begun - we are still negotiating the route.

Critical issues on tariff barriers, which could make a difference for Africa, and which were supposed to be followed up at World Trade talks in Hong Kong are on the rocks.

G8 anti-poverty march
Protesters urged the G8 to tackle global poverty

I followed the ministers to Hong Kong in December 2005 to hear more on the G8 promises and finally I made up my mind: We are in a political circus and Africa is just being tossed around.

A year since the G8 meeting, we are still questioning the fairness of the global trading system. Even our governments do not know how to fully address development issues.

Poverty is not an academic issue and it can be eliminated if there is political will to do it. What joy does the world find in inequity?

Agricultural subsidies in some of the richest nations - totalling some $350bn (192bn; 279bn euros) a year - were meant to be eliminated, ending unfair competition between developed nations' produce and unsubsidised African produce.

We are still asking when that will happen.

Distant target

A 2013 date has been put as the deadline for members of the European Union to agree to eliminate farm subsidies.

It is a long wait for Africa and it is surprising that African nations are being told to open up their manufactured goods markets while the US, Europe, and Japan delay similar moves.

Looking at all that has happened after the G8, one wonders whether the promised changes will come in our lifetime.

We were taken for a ride and looking back I feel angry, or just terribly cheated.

Next stop is Russia and Africa is off the agenda. For me, Gleneagles now seems more like a bad dream.


Kenyan journalist John Kamau
Kenyan journalist John Kamau works as a senior reporter on the country's Sunday Standard newspaper.





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific