Mbeki to press G8 leaders on Africa

Toyako, Japan - President Thabo Mbeki was due to meet the leaders of the world's richest nations at the G8 summit here on Monday, determined to press them to keep their past promises to help Africa.

Weighed down by immense global problems, such as rapidly rising food and fuel prices, and climate change, many observers believe the G8 leaders are starting to forget their big commitments to Africa three years ago.

Mbeki and the leaders of Tanzania, Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as Jean Ping, chairperson of the African Union Commission, were expected to have several hours of discussions with the G8 presidents and prime ministers.

They were to remind them that three years ago, at their summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 leaders promised that they and other donors would double their development aid to Africa by an extra $25-billion a year to $50-billion. The G8 share of the extra $25-billion was $21,8-billion.

They also promised to forgive up to $60-billion of Africa's multilateral debt.

Last year, at their summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, they also promised to increase their financing of African health systems to $60-billion "over the coming years".

They have made other promises to Africa, but these are the main ones.

But the South African government agrees with humanitarian NGOs like Oxfam that the leaders are not keeping their promises. Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad complained at a press briefing last week that the G8 leaders keep making new promises, but have not yet delivered on the big commitments, mainly made at Gleneagles.

Oxfam and other NGOs calculate that the G8 countries have paid up only $3-billion of their share of the promised extra $25-billion - if you exclude African debt relief, which is only 14 percent.

And the NGOs also worry that the draft communique prepared for this week's summit is too vague, reconfirming the promise to double aid to Africa but not mentioning the figure of $25-billion.

Oliver Buston, of Bob Geldof's One campaign, called this "bureaucratic sleight of hand" and said the Gleneagles promise "can't just be erased".

Masato Kidera, director-general for Sub-Saharan Africa in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, responded last week that it was customary in the G8 not to mention the amounts that individual countries would need to pay to meet the Gleneagles promise.

At its own big African development summit in May, Japan promised to double its aid to Africa to $1,8-billion - but by 2012, not 2010.

Kidera said Japan hoped that the other G8 countries would follow suit, but could not promise they would.

Pahad also stressed the importance to Africa of the G8 summit's other main agenda items - the rapid rise in food and fuel prices, and climate change.

Mbeki, the only one of 21 leaders here who has attended all eight G8 summits since the last one in Japan in 2000, will also be the only non-G8 leader to meet the G8 leaders in all three of their "outreach" sessions.

Apart from the African meeting today, he will meet the G8 leaders again on Wednesday with the other leaders of the so-called G5 or O5 (Outreach Five) countries, China, Brazil, India and Mexico.

He and these same G5 leaders will then meet the G8 leaders again as part of a wider group, including also Australia, Indonesia and South Korea, of leaders of "major economies".

At these Wednesday meetings, Mbeki and the other leaders are expected to come under pressure from the G8 leaders to commit to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions in a new international climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, when it expires in 2012.

Though Japan prides itself that this summit will include more non-G8 leaders than any other, Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Lourdes Aranda complained to the G8 for not really listening to the concerns of these "Outreach" countries.




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