We discussed the problem of poverty in Africa with South Africa's Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel in a special edition of our phone-in programme, Talking Point.
Nelson Mandela urged world leaders not to "look the other way" from poverty during a mass rally in London's Trafalgar Square this week.
Mr Mandela addressed finance ministers from the G7 industrialised countries during their meeting to discuss how to help the developing world on trade, debt relief and aid.
Last week UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Africa's poverty is "a scar on the conscience of the world".
Mr Blair has made it clear he wants to use the UK's presidency of the G8 group of rich nations this year to persuade other countries to write off debt owed by African states.
What can be done to alleviate poverty in Africa? Is more aid the answer or should African countries be helped to help themselves? Is the international community doing enough to help the continent?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:
Africa's poverty will remain and even worsen unless the West takes similar steps as they do in the Middle East by helping countries that yearn for true democracy. Togolese president, Eyadema, is dead after 38 years of oppressive rule. His son has been named successor after amending the constitution against the will of the people. Is the G7 going to remain silent because Togo has no resources western economies much crave for?
Musah Mohammed, Bracknell, UK
Debt relief is not the solution to Africa's poverty problem. The G7 industrial countries can help by encouraging personal enterprise in a free market economic system in the African polity. Governments in Africa fail to deliver the basic life to the people in a society of corruption and neglect. If the masses of the people are empowered economically, they will protect what is theirs. Only genuine democracy bolstered by free market system will give economic power to the people of Africa.
Victor Nwora Aghadi, Chicago, USA
How can institution building take place under the burden of debt? In addition, the question of debt forgiveness is separate from the question of aid. Please don't conflate them because then you unfairly associate all of the problematic issues associated with aid and the way in which aid programs are run with the issue of debt forgiveness.
Carina Ray, Ithaca, New York
I am not sure the shortage of aid or debt repayment is what is holding Africa back from economic advancement. No country in Africa is under coercion to pay back her debts. In fact, some, if not all, of the G7 countries are themselves debtors. The economic disparity between particularly countries of the G7 and Africa is such that while the West is deep into the revolution of communication technology and its subsequent economic advancement, we in Africa are yet to have the dreams that brought forth the industrial revolution. Africa has the human and mineral resources needed to propel us from this abysmal statue. What we (politicians, professionals and grassroot folks) need, is a change of attitude for the better.
Aroun Rashid Deen, New York, USA
The problem of poverty in Africa is not about debt. It is about the model of African leaders, the unfair international trade regulations and aid dependency. Africa will never develop if African people do not help themselves politically and socially in the first place.
To help Africa, we must take action one step at a time. To simply write off the debts is just going to ease off a fraction of Africa's burden for a short period of time. We need to begin by focusing on one portion of country that is willing to accept outside help and provide education, technical training, equipment, transportation infrastructure and international trade. The cultivation of its own "property rights" and the resources to enforce its own bylaws. We should provide this help until the country can successfully provide for its people. Africa needs real help, not something to pacify our feelings. To continue to pacify our own feelings does almost nothing for Africa and shows the shallowness of its world neighbours.
Chuck, California, U.S.
It is clear G7 does not want to help. For the past three years my company has been looking for finance for a poverty alleviation program that would empower and create meaningful jobs for millions of Africans. I would like to recycle old ship containers into mini-industrial plants. For example a 40 foot container could be turned into a water treatment plant. It will be mobile and so could travel from place to place providing clean water. A 40 foot container could treat 1,000,000 gallons of water per day.
However nobody wants to help from World Bank to ADB and EU development banks. Africa's help will only come from fresh new innovative ideas and not the present established failed systems. If any one truly wants to help please contact us. Thanks.
Charles Chudi Chukwuani, Abuja, Nigeria
The issue of fighting poverty in Africa is just a mere dream. The African continent is rich in terms of natural resources. Africa can only fight poverty if the corrupt and creed presidents leave power for good, otherwise Africa will remain poor. Father Mandela we appreciate your effort but it cannot work.
Saikou E Sanyang, Pingtung, Taiwan
Gordon Brown is naïve to think that debt relief would help. The only way Africa will progress is by eradicating corrupt governments.
John Babya, Tottenham, London
The debt burden crippling Third world countries is no longer an economic or political issue. It has become a moral issue as aptly captured by Tony Blair that "Africa's poverty is a scar on the conscience of the world". It may make economic sense for us to continue paying five times over what we borrowed and sustaining the poverty already strangulating our people but the world will continue to bear the burden of a besmeared conscience.
Chinedum Odenyi, Abuja, Nigeria
I've just got back from seeing Nelson Mandela in Trafalgar Square. Aside from the privilege of seeing one of the worlds greatest living persons there was a very simple and important message - thousands of people are dying in Africa every day due to poverty. The numbers completely dwarf 9/11 and the Tsunami disaster. Africa is not asking for charity, just a level playing field.
Cancel past debts to let them have a fresh start, let them compete fairly by abolishing subsidies on goods from Europe and America, target aid to help them get going. The west has plundered Africa for centuries and installed dictators to service the West's needs. It is time for us all to give something back.
Steve, London, UK
While standing amongst the thousands listening to this great man speak in Trafalgar Square, it dawned on me that just a few yards on the other side of the Thames lies the enormous Shell complex - the company that announced on the same day as Mr Mandela's plea record profits of £9billion. What better illustration of the gap between rich and poor. Huge irony.
James, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, UK
It is of great value that Nelson Mandela has spoken out against the twin atrocities of poverty and inequality, and of even more worth that he equated them with the abhorrence of slavery and apartheid, but as long as our own agricultural, livestock farming, fishing, manufacturing and primary commodity industries fight against environmentally motivated restrictions and the removal of subsidies, the injustices inherent in the current world trade system will persist.
Aid and debt relief will assist marginally, but a drastic reform of labour movement regulation internationally and the scaling back of protectionism by individual G7 governments are what will make the real difference. Without it, the sound bites, the annual speeches, hollow rhetoric and soon-to-be-broken promises will continue until the crisis hits our own shores in the form of mass unemployment, disease, immigration and civil unrest.
Anil Boury, Bradford
Corruption is a two-way street. It wouldn't exist on the scale that it does without the participation and encouragement of Western businesses. Africa will only get the message when we start to imprison our own people for offering bribes to African governments and African businesses.
Tom Kennedy, Montpellier, France
The new rich black elite in South Africa must help alleviate poverty; instead of spending their wealth on BMWs.
Ghulam Hussein, Tshwane, South Africa
A noble plight indeed, but I can't quite suppress my cynicism. How much of this is just more of Tony's self-promotional grandstanding? Has he realised, after his unfortunate partnership with George W Bush, that history is unlikely to remember him well and thus he's trying to make amends?
Or does he know that this is his best chance at being re-elected? If none of the above applies, then something is finally looking up for this world. I wonder what Dubya has to say about all this? It's certainly a far more humane way of spreading peace and freedom than his current modus operandi. So far he's remained pretty tight-lipped... and tight-fisted.
David Kersten, Singapore
Many African countries share numerous borders beyond which lie places with vastly different governments and people - all with their own values, strengths and weaknesses. It seems to me that Africa needs to be more in sync if they want to confront issues like Aids, drought, famine, war and poverty. Perhaps if a few countries scheduled elections to run at the same time it would be like fireflies blinking in the night and it might catch on. I think it's very important that Africa speaks as one before.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado USA
Of course, Great Britain should be involved in assisting African countries in the development of a viable infrastructure, especially in those countries which are members of the British Commonwealth such as Nigeria, Ghana,& the Seychelles, to name a few.
Aidan Work, Wellington, New Zealand
I think it's well known fact that the US aids central & South American countries and Europe aids Africa and Japan aids Asia. Among these 3 developing and under-developed areas, Africa is the worst. I think something is wrong and Europe should bear more responsibility for the development of Africa because Europe colonized almost all African countries. I suggest not imposing the western way into Africa. I think the denial of the western humanism causes a lot of sacrifice but we should soul search the failures and hypocrisy which exists behind the goodwill.
Masaki, Tokyo, Japan
Australian Prime Minister Howard said it right at Davos this week: African poverty is a combination of corruption/mismanagement by African leaders and tariff barriers by the first world. He is also right that forgiving debt would not help, while the first two remain. As long as we don't address those, we are just wasting time trying to address Africa's other problems - which have been talked about since I was a young boy in Zimbabwe.
Joe Mandebvu, Australia
Debt cancellation is not the solution to Africa's poverty. The solution to Africa's poverty lies in economic governance. Economic governance cannot function in absence of democracy. African leaders must adapt democracy which guarantees the rule of law. The African leaders must abolish the post-colonial constitutions; write new constitutions and move forward with making tons and tons of legislations that will protect every aspect of public life from anti-corruption laws to education, health, environment and most importantly limiting powers as well as the period a head of state will have in an office.
Anice Abe, Calgary, AB, Canada
Working in Congo and Sudan has given me some extra ideas on the problems but also the positive things of Africa like displaced persons being looked after by families with nothing and this culture of supporting people is very strong in Africa. Negative side is looking at Congo the government fails to charge any of the killers in Ituir and the generals get jobs in new government. Plus the UN have a strong case to defend themselves in Congo where thousands of dollars and soldiers cannot protect communities and UN spend more money on consultants than trying to really arrest killers.
David Turner, Sudan
The main reason why Africa is in ruin is because most of it was a part of the Western Empire. We in the west have a moral obligation to help Africa to get out of the mess we put her into. Instead we still try to rob Africa of its resources giving only crumbs back. I don't understand what justification one can find for spending billions of dollars in invading Iraq while remaining indifferent to the problem of Africa.
Kiariki J, Greece
Mr Blair, thank you for your plans for Africa. For your plans to work, tell your friends (G8) to stop allowing their countries to be used as safe heavens for Africa's stolen wealth. The day African leaders discover that it is no longer easy for them to carry our wealth out of the continent to the Western banks, the health, education and welfare of the people will improve tremendously.
We need to see an improved agricultural relationship between the poor Farmers in Africa and the rest of the West. Japan and some other countries in Asia got help that transformed their countries in terms of technology, we need technology to solve the energy crisis in Africa. Your aid is only feeding us for today and tomorrow we will come back to ask for more, that is not the way to help Africa.
Charles O, Aba, Nigeria
No one seems to be asking Africans what they want or involving them in this process. Poverty in Africa will never be alleviated until Africans get really sick of it, unite and do things for themselves. Anyone who knows anything knows how immensely wealthy Africa is. Does any sensible person really think that Europeans and Americans with long histories of exploiting and abusing Africa and with great greed for African wealth have suddenly put on the humanitarian garb? The West knows what to do but just won't do it. Let's talk debt cancellations/reasonable restructuring, then we could even have a conversation. So please spare us the hypocrisy. We can find these solutions ourselves!
Ngum Ngafor, Manchester, England
Debt relief is one of the answers to poverty in Africa. Also the western leaders should put more efforts on the issue of corruption. Africa has the highest rate of corrupt leaders in the world and what has Blair and the G8 done about this - nothing. My advice to the group of rich nations is that never you give anything to any head of state or president, they will just embezzle the money and forget about us (the poor).what ever you wish to do for Africa do it through an NGO our leaders in Africa are just too bad
Gambo Abdul, Kaduna state, Nigeria
As far as I am concerned, the continent needs sustainability. That is they should use properly any debts given by international community and they should not only spend money for expenditures but also provide clear plan of how to keep on developing and making profit.
It is obvious that perhaps it will take more time to do that. I think the point is not in international committees' insufficient assistance but on the lack of clear goals. All international organizations need to be involved in compiling certain steps for Africa that will work. Despite it can be understood that it will be hard to work out all solutions, it's now time to act!
Ziyoda, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
I feel that enough is not being done considering how more well off UK are compared to Africa. I think that the main organisations should encourage more people to give to those in Africa who are going through hard times.
Leena Patel, London, Harrow
People in African don't need western help and they don't ask for it. The only people who need western help and ask for it are un-elected tyrants who kill they own people and buy luxury goods from Europe and America. Real poor Africans don't need or ask Mandela or/and Blair to beg for them so they can feel good about themselves and proclaim that they are helping Africa. Just let Africa be.
Berry Ilunga, London UK
Rich nations should help them so that they can recover from their huge debts. The UN should be the one to lead the actions. We all know that Africa is a beautiful continent. It has many natural resources. They must use it to attract tourists which can help the economy of the respective countries. Africans should unite as one because the progress lies in their own hands. What will happen if poverty will prevail? I can't imagine...
Kenna Fe G. Corneta, Koronadal City, Philippines
Sharing poverty or adopting western way of life is no solution for Africa. It will take time and patience. Education, African education and effective national policies in line with country resources appear highly desirable. Can we help them? I have serious doubts. Alleviating debt and food and medical assistance can be provided; everything else obviously does not work very well. Economic and social progress can only come from within the countries.
Africa is the cheapest labour market on earth, and I simply cannot understand why the rich nations find it a problem to outsource. Outsourcing to Africa would certainly slice the percentage of poverty into half. I challenge Tony Blair to start putting pressure on his rich friendly nations to seriously consider this earnest action.
John Jacobs, Harrisburg, PA, USA
Well, I appreciate UK's efforts in trying to solve the problem of poverty in Africa but giving aid or cancelling debts will not solve the problem although such efforts should be commended. I think the solution to the problem lies within the Africans themselves. We know what we want.
Efforts should be put in encouraging Africans to come up with African solutions e.g. encouraging African medicine and developing it to solve the problem of disease. This is because Africans respond well to African medicine. Aloe Vera is a good example in fighting against Malaria. In a nutshell, Africans have the answer to the problem of poverty.
Ssekyanzi Robert, Kampala, Uganda
If Africa was populated by starving blue eyed blondes the West would rush to help. Cancelling debt is not a permanent solution. Instead there should be direct investment and Africans must be forced to provide an enabling environment. This will create jobs and a better life. Non-governmental agencies with expertise should manage investment. And lastly debts should be cancelled and repatriate countries for all the money stolen that is now in European banks - wealth has to created within to make any difference.
Namdi, Nigerian in Ireland
I think Africans have everything they need to alleviate poverty. The only problem is the corrupt leaders. I think the developed countries should help eliminate the tyrant rulers so that the aid received can be used for development.
Banfegha Emmanuel, Buea, Cameroon
African poverty should be dealt with in terms of case by case and not taken as a block of all countries together. Every specific country in Africa has its realities although corruption and ignorance seem to be a common disease in most of our so-called politicians. In case of the DR Congo, poverty should not be seen there. The land is massive, green and fertile with human friendly climates year around.
Our problems started when the previous president Mobutu was imposed on us by the United States and Belgium. Mobutu was educated to lead Congolese people to better life, he was good for his western protectors but not for DR Congo people. He ran the country like his private house and enjoyed great protection from western leaders. The war in DR Congo today is a result of his years of negligence, incompetence, terror regime and tyranny.
Stability in the DR Congo can help improve living standards of many people in the African Great Lakes region. We need leaders we elect and not fabricated opportunists imposed on us by any means, then we can positively contribute to the global economy.
Kambale, Goma, DR Congo
Tony has his heart in the right place, but these ideas lack real commitment. If political leaders were really interested in developing Africa, they would reduce the tariffs hampering organic growth. Writing off debt to reduce poverty will only succeed if used in conjunction with other growth initiatives such as Financial Transparency and Results Linked Funding, Reduction of Protectionist Tariffs and education on financial management and economic development.
People generally prefer not to face the hard reality that they themselves are responsible for what was/is happening to them. Attributing failure to the wrong source creates further obstacles on the road of recovery. If people are still thinking wrongly that a foreign force is in charge over them, then they will still keep surrendering to hopelessness and despair, and consequently solutions will never be tackled. We brought this on us. We are our worst enemies. We have to bring ourselves out of this. We are alone. The English PM is not our relative - nobody can save us but us.
Ukbe, Asmara, Eritrea
Taking Africa's track record with aid into consideration, this is my suggestion. Instead of cancelling debt or pouring more money into the continent, developed nations should donate resources, and expertise - build schools, bridges and roads. That way contractors and companies from the richer nations get paid directly by their governments, their bottom line improves, they provide employment in the nations where they do their contracting and most important of all - the money does not get into the hands of their greedy, corrupt leaders.
Anita, Mississauga, Canada
It seems to me that every time helping poverty in Africa is mentioned, the same answers are given, and guess what, we get the same result! Why is it the majority of posters in Africa on this forum don't want the debt written off? Because the money goes straight to the corrupt leaders. This applies also to foreign aid sent there. The best method for helping these people is for Europe to stop subsidising their farmers. Open up this market, and then you will see real change.
By protecting the European farmers, the EU is supporting an inefficient system that costs the EU half their budget, keeps consumers paying high prices, drives down the global price of crops that are primarily grown in the Third world, and hence keeps Africans impoverished. Get rid of the CAP, and you will see real change in Africa. The other advantage of this is that it rewards the workers of Africa, and not the corrupt leaders.
James Squire, Melbourne, Australia
Giving money to Africans is like throwing a stone into the ocean. If we really want to help them, we should help them to organize their market. It would improve the economy and make life easier for the African population.
Zbigniew Kania, Poland
Stop the double standards! Give the Africans what they need i.e. resources such as access to pharmaceuticals that would ensure a healthy and productive labour force. Until this is done the debt problem will escalate and poverty will become the reason why persons will opt to be part of the many illicit and inhumane activities that plague the continent.
Malcolm, Castries, St Lucia
I cannot imagine the rich surviving without a poor man. This is the reason why Africa will be kept poor for ever and ever. Tony Blair's is but a lip service.
At face value, yes Africa's debt should be written off. However, this is difficult to do considering the corruption rife among much of Africa's leaders. Their personal affluence (mainly from stolen money) makes a mockery of their cries for mercy from their creditors. Africans must be the first to help themselves.
Consider this: if a luxury car manufacturer in Europe makes say only seven unique custom-designed vehicles, there is a great likelihood of finding one of these cars in Nigeria within a few weeks of manufacture. Can you easily pardon such a country's debt?
Eugene Ohu, Lagos, Nigeria
It is good that Mr Blair wishes to use to the UK's presidency of the G8 to forward Africa's cause. I hasten to say complete debt cancellation is the only solution to Africa's problems. In fact to call it debt cancellation is mere courtesy; it should be called retribution or penance for the abuse of hospitality which, our colonisers called simple mindedness. And to the current crop of political leadership: Change your attitude of selfishness.
Arthur Kavunga Daka, Lusaka, Zambia
South Africa for one, as the leading southern African nation, should not get involved in arms deals and stamp out corruption before asking for debt relief.
Sipho Mnisi, London, UK
Before we in the west start cancelling African debts, maybe African leaders should ask themselves how they manage to afford stately homes, £300,000 Maybach limousines, umpteen wives, private jets...
Rob Holman, Chislehurst, Kent, England
Is the international community really willing to help Africa come out of poverty? If yes, they then have first to begin by ceasing to back and support despot and corrupted leaders whose main concern is to be just in power and to spend lavishly on useless trips, holidays, never mind the misappropriation of funds. Many African countries have the potential but we only lack good leaders that have the interest of their country in their heart.
During Mobutu's era, the international community, despite being aware that Mobutu was one of the worst corrupted leaders who never served the Zairian people, they kept on supporting his regime by pouring in money. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world where natural resource is concerned, the DRC is so far one of the countries where people languish in poverty and where there is no infrastructure.
The salvation of Africa won't come from the only cancellation of debt. Africans have first to change their mentality as not only the despots and corrupted leaders are the cause of our suffering but also we the people, intellectuals as well as illiterates contribute in supporting them on ethnic grounds.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe
I think it a high time that Africa got colonised again. The civilian African is a very hard working person if looking at the ones who are working out of Africa is a standard to go by. The civilian Africa is ready to do his/her part in nation building and they do. But the guys at the top let all the hard work go down the drain. If the rich countries want to help Africa to realise her full potential then with all due respect to the people of Africa, I think we should be colonised once more
The problem we have in Africa is clearly visible, colonial masters should seize all their activities and give us full independence. Countries like Ivory Coast, DRC, Zimbabwe, up to recently Angola have suffered so much because they were never really given independence. The West should know that their conditions are only serving to divide us hence they should leave us to use African ways to solve our own problems. AU should show also some decisive leadership and stop moving slow on matters that can be hammered once. The slow pace in solving problems is badly disheartening.
Kiplangat, Kenyan in Tokyo, Japan
I am sick of reading comments that Africa's present poverty is the result of colonialism Think about Hong Kong which was a British colony until 1997 as far as I remember. Think about South Korea which was a Japanese colony and later destroyed by war in the 50s. Africa is like a sack with no bottom - whatever you throw in, it will be wasted. The Africans should start with themselves instead of accusing God knows who for their misfortunes. Please do not accuse the West of all evils. The world will never be equal. There will be the rich and the poor. We all started from the same point generations ago.
To Peter, Poland: Your arguments are shallow and fairly non-existent. Read some history before you compare Hong Kong to Africa. It's sadly uninformed people like you with no idea of comparative history or cause and consequence that believe banal comparisons can prove Africans are lazy and wasteful.
Mark, Vienna, Austria
We do not need aid, debt cancellation or international assistance, what we need is to be partners in economy as Asian countries are. Africa grows cotton but clothes are made in Bangladesh! Why not Africa? Build a lot of industries and buy our end products and see if we will be beggars.
Albina, Tanzanian in Bangladesh
No rational human being likes to see the immense suffering and poverty experienced by the vast majority of Africans. But, the reasons for this situation lie squarely at the feet of the African leaders. Look at the Sudan, look at Zimbabwe - and where is the condemnation from other African leaders for the starvation and yes, genocide, perpetrated by Mugabe and his Sudanese counterpart?
Africa has no moral imperative to ask for more aid or debt relief until it can come to the taxpayers of the west with clean hands. Never forget that aid and debt relief are no more the transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
What next after Davos and Blair's talk? Are we going to see the talk being put in to action or we will soon see Tony and his friend Bush trying to find a reason for taking they troops to war and "a scar on the conscience of the world" ignored.
William, Kitwe, Zambia
Debt relief could be based on what proportion the recipient spends on the military: the less it spends the greater the debt relief. Also government-to-government aid is more likely to fuel corruption and benefit the rich and powerful, whereas aid channelled through NGO's is more likely to reach its target - the poor. Even though much money is siphoned of by African leaders, we shouldn't forget, however, that the GNP per head is still desperately low.
By creating a favourable political climate, the economics should take care of themselves and the brain drain from Africa to the West should lessen. We can help much in the West in developing Africa but the conditions for Africans to prosper is in the hands of its leaders - the talent and resources are already there.
David Russell, Inverness, UK
Why don't African countries emulate the Argentineans and refuse to pay? This debt is a way of control, and how can the west talk about despot regimes and still give loans to these oppressive regimes?
Gabriel, Manchester, UK
Yes, the debt should be cancelled. Lenders are complicit in the lending deals leading to the debt. The breaking down of the iniquitous agricultural trade barriers should also be hastened; let's make the glibly called "Global Village" a reality.
Some of the more fecund countries in Africa have to exercise population control. Kenya had 14m people in 1974; it estimated to be 34m now. The UK could not find jobs and opportunities for an extra 20m in 30 years. How can Kenya?
John Warder, Henley-on-Thames
No, enough will probably never be done, but governments shouldn't be the ones helping unless they get something in return. The governments of nations should not be in the charity business. Invest, purchase and trade with Africa, but do not just throw money at them. I don't say this because I hate Africans. I just don't think governments should be throwing our tax-payer dollars at other countries because I pay my taxes to help improve my country not someone else's. I give to charity organizations for charity. The two should not be muddled up.
Errol Summerlin, Houston USA
The Davos type meeting should be held in Africa for a change so that the top Leaders come face to face with the world's poor and their problems and chart possible answers. Writing off debts alone is not enough. Apart from increasing welfare services there should be more self-help projects with the poor at the grass roots level.
How many hundreds of billions have been given to Africa over the past 40 years by European countries and the USA? Africa is probably in worse shape than it was 40 years ago. Celebs and politicians keep saying give Africa more money more aid. Africans need to start taking responsibility for themselves. Africans failure to speak out against tyrants like Mugabe plus genocide like Rwanda are further example why more money is not the answer.
Politics keep African nations in poverty. The Developed nations of the world should help topple crooked, African regimes and help the citizens of these nations control their own destinies. The developed world treats the African continent as a welfare state. Throwing it a bone once in awhile and generally ignoring the ruthless leaders which create the problems in the first place.
Ethiopia, The Sudan, Somalia and others are good examples of bad government leading to the poverty of its peoples. How about a United Nations that would jump in and help like they did in the break up of Yugoslavia? Why are the African people treated differently? Aren't they just as deserving of a decent life?
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio, USA
African leaders are no source of inspiration for their respective countries. All they care about is how long they can cling onto power. It's time for regime transformation.
Turay Yayah, Kambia, Sierra Leone
I think a major issue in Africa is health and the environment which lends itself to mosquitoes and other transmissible diseases. In this sense, wealthy countries are not doing enough to help in this fundamental necessity - the freedom from disease.
If African leaders can demonstrate tangible results in fighting corruption, creating jobs and promoting real democratic change, then the international community can help by cancelling substantial amounts of debt owed to them.
There are some good efforts made by some African leaders so far, such as President Bingu wa Mutharika in Malawi, President Mwanawasa of Zambia and also President Chissano of Mozambique whose country's debt has already been massively reduced according to recent news reports. If African leaders can succeed in creating the conditions which allow them to maximize their own resources and avoid the heavy and deadly reliance on foreign aid then future generations will truly benefit from the riches which are otherwise already present.
Mowa wa Masese, Lilongwe, Malawi
Development in Africa can only start when the African leadership gets serious about development. Within Africa there are states and regions that are at different levels of development. Countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya had an excellent basis for progress but they are not moving forward. Why? Because leadership is not only incompetent, but extremely corrupt.
For example Zimbabwe's problems can be resolved at least 60% with just good governance. It does not require a lot of money to move Zimbabwe forward. All that is required is to restore law and order and human rights and then tomorrow the country will start moving forward. Investors will not come to Africa in a meaningful way until after African countries put their houses in order. It is very simple.
African debt needs to be cancelled because it will cause chaos for every generation on the shanty continent of Africa. As our leaders continue to leave us defenceless, the international community has the responsibility to do enough to ensure stability of the situation. Day by day it is getting more out of hand. More or less I think we the people on the continent have responsibility to offer support.
We will benefit from the continent if we contribute. Sons and daughters of Africa need to ensure their moral support in any way so the next generation is not a burden to our faithfully colony masters.
Robert Coker, Kampala, Uganda
Yes, slavery damaged the African continent and continues to affect the descendants of slaves to this day. Yes, colonialism stripped our nations of national resources, exacerbated ethnic divisions and inculcated many of us with a sense of inferiority. Yes multi-national companies continue to exploit our national resources. Yes, Europe owes us. Yes, the USA owes the African-Americans within its own borders. But how long should we stand with hands outstretched?
That will only earn us continued contempt and condescension. I believe that it is time for Africans (and the African Diaspora) to draw a line in the sand, and move forward on our own momentum. We need to completely take charge and take responsibility for the destiny of our nations. When we look to the West, it needs to be with a well-thought out agenda of our own, seeking to acquire from the richer countries specific knowledge, skills, and resources that fit into the plans we have created for ourselves.
Just as an example, suppose all the educated and successful Africans living outside Africa should return and contribute to their own countries, rather than being just one in a billion cogs in the machinery of Western economies? Can you imagine what a revolution that would be? The same applies to other developing countries in the Caribbean and Asia.
Narda, Jamaican studying in London
Let's face it. Africa is never going to be as rich as the West until it starts to think and act like the West. Isn't that the way the West got rich in the first place? So you westerners, for what would you be willing to think and act like an African? Has the West solved its own problems of poverty? The bottom line is that all the West has to offer Africa is materialism and its physical benefits... an Africa under tarmac and concrete, full bellies and good health for some but morally adrift.
No wonder they hesitate to buy the whole cart full when it's obvious that the rotten apple in the middle will end up spoiling the lot in time. Africa's problem can never be solved from outside. It is an African problem that needs an African solution. There is already enough finance inside Africa to solve Africa's problems. Maybe true altruism will arise when the gravy train of guilt and sympathy grinds to a halt. Poverty will never be history in this world as we know it for you have the poor with you always...
G Stevenson, Arusha, Tanzania
If the UK and USA were prepared to spend as much helping the people of Africa as they have subjugating the people of Afghanistan and Iraq then the debts would have been written off many times over by now. Unfortunately there is little political capital to be gained by helping the people of Africa; and even less oil. Blair is only making noises now because an election is on the horizon and I doubt if Bush even knows where Africa is, like most Americans.
Steve Kilbride, Liverpool
Our Leaders should not enrich themselves with our national asset.
Mrs Gilsey Eyiah-Sampson, Accra, Ghana
I believe that the West has done everything possible to help Africa. Millions of dollars have been sent and the common people don't receive any of it. Instead the rich politicians sell the food and medicine and buy guns. It's about time people like Bono learnt that charity begins at home. Ireland has people living in poverty that need help.
Susan King, Derwood, Maryland
As the old saying goes, "you can't draw blood out of a stone", so debt-forgiveness will help, a little. Africa is a continent however, and each country's needs should be considered on its specific merits. However, corruption is the main cause of much of the continent's distress. Historically, and as a matter of fact, many of Britain's ex-colonies were given substantial funding and the use of a substantial infrastructure with which to establish their independent economies.
Over the past forty years, the international community has been brain-washed into thinking that the problems of Africa are all the fault of First world countries and they must pay. The results of the billions of pounds/dollars invested or donated, amount to a hill of beans!
Sandy, Sarnia, Canada
The problem with Africa is everyone wants to do their own thing. We need to work together as one people, with one goal. To eradicate poverty, not only in Africa, but also for the other people who are homeless just now, people who are living in sub-standard conditions, people who work so hard, for so little. The only way to do this is to work in unity.
Something this world is not yet ready for. We are so set back with making our own money, each for their own. If everyone contributed 10% of their earnings to a world charity fund or the ICF (international charity fund) you would soon see poverty be part of history. What we have to remember is each for their own only does one thing and one thing only, cause hurt and someone will always lose.
John Ritchie, Edinburgh, UK
Efforts in fighting against poverty in Africa have just started worldwide. However, what is being done so far is not enough due to the fact that the continent is extremely poor. I am of an opinion that the rich States should write off debts as Mr Blair has already indicated.
On the other hand, education for Africans is the most important weapon which could enable them to tackle various problems in their areas. Improve agricultural activities and then allow fair competition at the World Market. I feel if the above will be done, at least Africans might be a little bit better.
Betty Massanja, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
I am sick and tried of people like Bono calling on the world's governments to commit more and more of their citizens hard earned tax money to go toward other nations. Bono and the like spend huge amounts of money on accountants making sure they pay as little in tax as possible.
Blair has just spent three half million on a house and expects his hardworking electorate to foot the bill for whatever charitable largesse he thinks reflects his image best. Yes Africans needs help but do we need people like this?
Marc, Singapore ex UK
Mr Blair is showing a true born again spirit that other rich countries should emulate.
Hankie Uluko, Kenya
Africa needs sustainable progress and development that is both friendly to the environment and in promotion of an improved quality of life. At first, before anything else, the world community should work to provide the necessities of life.
Brent Davis, Saskatoon, Canada
What the world can do for Africa is provide markets for their goods so they can develop their economies. Instead, the rich countries impose tariffs on African produce and goods, and flood the African markets with subsidized products from North America and the EU.
African people aren't looking for handouts. They want to work but they need to be able to reap the rewards of their hard work. This is such a basic idea, one wonders why it hasn't been implemented before. Could there be any reason why rich countries would want to keep poor countries poor?
Britain is the leader in fighting the poverty, but nothing so far has been implemented other than endless debates. To alleviate the poverty, debt must be written off as soon as possible rather than prolonging debates. Rich communities of the world please do your best so that the starvation ends.
Ahsir Minhas, Karachi, Pakistan
Fight corruption and poverty will be reduced. Anything else would be wasteful international meetings and throwing good money after bad.
David, Portland, Oregon
The WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, is a start, but it's only a start. The richer nations of the world, namely the US, need to commit their vast resources to African development in the long run. There also needs to be, particularly in democratic societies, a public discourse about African development, or lack thereof.
Peter Bolton, US
All of Africa suffers in large part from the past kidnapping and sale of African slaves. Generations of people were relocated and killed causing the dysfunction of that vast land. Africa should have no debt as we all are indebted to them. More needs to be done to rid Africa of war so instead of fighting they can work to build a united country.
Kevin, CA, USA
The problem with Africa is that our colonial masters have through the years inculcated a culture of mediocrity whereby the viciously passionate are patronized while the truly inspired are alienated... our inherited educational institutions merely celebrate formal titles to the detriment of competence and intelligence. We have never seen inspired leadership in Africa.
Ikeotuonye Chidi, Lagos, Nigeria
There are many ways of fighting poverty in the continent. Let the West give African migrants clemency and freedom to work and help the poor as one of the ways to alleviate poverty, the meagre jobs they do go a long way to channel money directly to solving many problems at home.
More can always be done. There needs to be more commitment and desire for change from within. Africans, all in general, but leaders in particular need to assume more responsibility and the rest of the world can support efforts being made.
Buakai Tamu, Fort Hood, Texas
Yes I feel there is enough being done. It is up to the Africans themselves to get rid of the fraud, and the corrupt regimes, which are the source of most of the African evil. However it seems to be part of the African society - if a new leader emerges, within a short time he is also corrupt (benefiting his extended family).
Henny Barelds, Schoonebeek, the Netherlands
It is the European community that should feel responsible for Africa. The rest of the world did not colonize the continent, draw up arbitrary political lines and then abandon them after they no longer turned a profit. America is responsible for a lot of the most recent problems in the Middle East because of short sighted policies and we are trying to make it better.
What has Europe done but continue to look after your own self interests? How can you brag about your quality of life when you never paid back the debt you owe to Africa while you carried the white man's burden? America cannot expend money and resources fixing its own as well as Europe's mistakes.
Erik, Ft Collins, USA
Africa is a result of the UN's involvement. The UN has had scores of years to assist and it only results in more political nightmares. I think that until the problems with the UN are resolved Africa will continue to be the victim. Some of you here are blaming the West. We are sending millions if not billions to help aid the Africans. The UN is responsible for seeing this money gets to those in need of it. Instead, they give it to government officials who only line their pockets. This must be fixed!
Sharon, Grove City, USA
It will improve the day we start to look after our own interests instead of the western countries, who for hundreds of years robbed us of our natural resources.
B Fall, Dakar, Senegal
Thank you Mr Blair and may this lead to an honest and true commitment by the international community to Africa. We can succeed, yes, but not until there is true partnership with Africa and African governments. Stop being cosmetic and become committed to their people. These governments do everything to stay in power, including taking advantage of the misery of the people. It is hard for them to help the situation because change has to start with them.
The international community needs to understand the African problem and perhaps rethink about its role with reference the sovereignty of African countries. How is the aid managed? How is it supervised? What is done when it is mismanaged? Giving us money is not sufficient. We have to stand on our own and we do not lack the resources.
Giles Kindzeka, Cameroonian student in Umeå, Sweden
It is really nice to see the UK lending a good hand to the world's most impoverished citizens because it is precisely for that reason that citizens of wealthy countries are able to maintain prosperity. When we fail to support those who have very little, our own citizenry loses faith in the potential for compassion in others.
When this is lost, hope and tranquillity is diminished and inevitably prosperity is lost. The money we spend on those who need it the most returns value far more than what one would by spending it on those things which are more fleeting. Saving lives through charity of this kind is a prudent and lasting investment.
Michael Furtado, Victoria, Canada
Until trade is fair to African countries, until the word fair is treated with more honesty by us in the rich countries, nothing will be enough.
Martin Grandison, London, UK
To Martin Grandison, London, UK: I have no clue what you are talking about. My shops are full of things from Africa. I just bought a box of tea this week which was imported from South Africa. All sorts of items from t-shirts from Lesotho to fabrics from Kenya are in our stores. I read that one can even buy flour from Ethiopia in the US. Did we invent our trade deficit? We are buying items like mad. Speak for someone else, please.
Let everyone listen to Bono when he says the African situation is an emergency. We need to act now rather than debate the subject endlessly. By the time we come about an agreeable plan of action through endless discussions, millions could have already perished. At this time, we don't need rhetoric or eloquence. We need action.
Anwer Abbas, New Jersey, USA
It's amazing how the West can still pretend that they are solving Africa's problems. There's no-one who can solve these problems but us. Just stop the interference and supporting our puppet leaders and let's take care of our own business. Can you do that?!
Dave Danso, Accra, Ghana
To Dave Danso, Accra, Ghana: I totally agree with you. The West cannot solve Africa's problems. There's no-one who can solve these problems but the Africans themselves.
1) They must overthrow their puppet leaders and take care of their own business. The rampant corruption must not be tolerated. Africa is rich in natural resources. There is no reason for the poverty and low standard of living.
2) They must reject violence and see each other simply as people, fellow Africans, not Hutus, Tutsis, Muslims etc. These divisions and ethnic group differences are used as excuses for perpetuating constant civil war, bankrupting the richest nations!
3) Finally, they must limit the number of children born to impoverished families. It is appalling to see mothers, surrounded by starving children. Why give birth to ten children, bury eight, and continue such a pattern? Family planning is a critical factor in eliminating poverty!
Money will not solve these problems. Honest, responsible leadership and personal accountability will!
Lydia, Virginia, USA
In order for the world's efforts to work in helping African countries, the rampant corruption of many African politicians and government officials must be addressed. Many African countries are quite rich in natural resources, but most of the income from these resources are keep by top officials leaving the average person with nothing.
John, St John's, Canada
Britain is the leader in fighting poverty in Africa. From Blair's debt write off and education incentives to setting people up in small businesses to the Oxfam café (which I am waiting to arrive in the US) You should be very proud of the work you have done.
Kaye, NYC, USA
It started with Africa Day, but since then only lip service. Seemingly the international community did not recognise the potentials of the African continent, yet. Writing off debt could be a part of the tremendous task ahead. Along with that education, proper healthcare, investment and above all peace are required in Africa enabling the continent to flourish. The aim should be closing the gap and the result will be a joint benefit for Africa and the rest of the world.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
I would rather see billons of dollars spent on war or 40 million spent on our presidents inauguration go towards something positive. I mean, war never ends anyway, at least not in the countries we spend it on.
Karla, Detroit, Michigan
It's fairly clear that continuing to throw money at Africa and excuse debts hasn't made a dent to the poverty here; in fact, it's likely one of the causes of worsening it. There is much possible in Africa by Africans if corruption, mismanagement and greed stopped being supported by aid money. Africa has a rich and an educated elite who have no reason for wanting things to change.
They are the usual recipients of the money and privilege that comes from aid benefits; its; why should they use their influence and power to change what benefits them? Instead of looking at how WE can help Africa's poor why don't we ask how the rich and middle-class Africans can help their own? I see the hands held out to me to beg for cash; I would rather see a hand held out to take mine and join me in working to improve themselves and their own.
Gayna, Arusha, Tanzania
We have robbed Africa blind - let us not forget that global capitalism requires millions to die of starvation so the western worlds remain rich.
Africa's poverty is, in the first instance, a scar on its own political leaders, who have let the Africans down at every possible instance. The number of African political leaders who actually served their country rather than their own interests can be counted on one hand. Other countries have suffered, too, from the exploitation of western countries and their empires, but are doing what they can to help themselves as well.
Rustam Roy, London, UK
So much has been said on Africa and so many good resolutions have been taken, without ever being implemented. Alleviating debt is a merely short-term, short-sighted solution to Africa's problems. The solution is, to my mind, three-fold. First, the international community, the rich and the poor alike, should unite in reconsidering practical and feasible measures to halt the uneven worldwide distribution of wealth.
Second, African leadership should at least focus on the fight against corruption instead of reviving ethnic hatred. And most importantly, the West should help Africans rebuild their continent by promoting sustainable development through trade and investment.
Tarek Cheniti, Geneva, Switzerland
Here we go again. I think it's time the world stepped back, reviewed how much money has been spent on Africa, where and how it was spent, and what benefits Africa has received from it. Africa's problems aren't going away by merely throwing money at them.
It's time donors started using their heads as well as their hearts and began to demand results rather than just opening their wallets to make themselves feel good and then turning away thinking they've done their good deed.
For once I am proud of our politicians. This is a huge step forward in global ethics. There is no doubt that implementation will be difficult since many poor countries have corrupt leaders and we must be sure not to simply fund their oppressive regimes. I just hope the perceived difficulties won't be used as an excuse by other rich nations.
A Edmondson, UK
The poverty level in Africa is real, worsening, and already catastrophic. It remains the responsibility of the international community to address it. Debt cancellation is in the right direction, necessary, but cannot be sufficient to fix the problem of the continent. The Marshall Plan is a great idea but will the commitment be commensurate?
Let's not forget the Cold War is over. But nevertheless it is feasible if the commitment to transfer 0.7% of rich north to the poor south were implemented. Plus the global political economy need restructuring to allow for a level playing field.
Mohammed Hamis Ussif, London, UK
The colonial powers plundered Africa for years, then cut her up and left her, or so it seems. The most important thing the rest of the world could do for Africa is have real 'fair trade'. No more agricultural subsidies to Western, nor ridiculous barriers such as banana shape and curvature.
Furthermore, given that the Western community's involvement in Darfur and Rwanda has been so ineffective, the African Union shon should be the one left to deal with such issues. The international community could help in training the AU, nothing more please. Western governments should no longer prop up unpopular regimes and leave Africa to Africans.
It has taken Europe three hundred years to create the terrible human tragedy that is bedevilling the people of Africa. To undo this is going to require as much determination, purpose, energy, time and will by those responsible. Tony Blair's effort is a good start.
Bekuretsion Fesshaye, Halifax, NS, Canada
I don't think a nation like the United States in interested in helping Africa. Take for example, the astronomical amount of money the States gives to Israel- around 4 billion. Yet the US would never consider spending that much for an entire continent that is in dire need of it.
Bilal Sultan, New York City, USA
It is really a large scale drama going on in Davos where our so called great world leaders are drinkdrinking, networking and gossiping under the umbrella of solving the problem of world poverty. Ask them to also convert their words in actions also so that fruits shall reach to the bottom. But in my view this will never been done because these prophets of globalisation, responsible for this poverty, never want to lower their profits by helping the poor.
Vikas Garg, New Delhi, India
The developed world is doing everything it can to make sure that every African can own a gun. Fighting poverty is what they promise, selling weapons is what they actually do.
Gary Chiles, Wellington, New Zealand
The corporations that run the developed world aren't fair with their own people. I doubt they stop exploiting Africa.
Matthew, San Francisco, USA
I strongly believe the world has to take responsibility for the state of poverty in Africa. The continent lacks good laws to encourage growth and development, the West is always creating new conflicts to their advantage and the poor people of the continent have to practice corruption before they can cross the poverty margin.
Unlimited aid and cancellation of debts without a corresponding check on how this money is spent will only make those in power richer and richer, and the people on the street poorer and poorer. Aid that doesn't affect the lives of common people is the same as no aid.
Chi Primus, Buea, Cameroon
The world has never done enough for Africa. The best thing that could have happened was the pull-out of colonialists, but they left African nations denuded of social capabilities, as well as resources to cope with independence. Invest some dignity in the people of Africa; support their efforts to be the best they can be, their way. But don't interfere with Western ideals, because Western ideals will simply make the situation for the poorest worse, as it has done in the so-called West.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK