British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa is proposing that wealthy nations double their annual development aid to Africa in the next few years.

The commission says drastic measures are needed if Africa is to have any chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

On Monday the commission - which includes SA finance minister Trevor Manuel - begins intensive talks with African businesses, NGOs and the public on a consultation document drawn up by the commission in Addis Ababa earlier in November.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a series of targets to halve poverty by 2015. Africa is the only region lagging behind.

Consultations on the document will form the basis for a report due out early in 2005 which Blair intends to push when he chairs the G8 and the European Union.

Sir Nicholas Stern, the commission's director for policy research is in South Africa for meetings with Manuel and with Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, the chairperson of the secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

The main goal of the commission is to give impetus to Nepad and to the G8 Africa Action to advance Nepad's goals.

Stern told journalists in Pretoria on Sunday that it would take just $20-billion (R120-billion) for the wealthy nations to double their annual development aid to Africa.

That would require just .07 percent more from their gross domestic products. (GDPs)

The world's largest economy, the United States, could pay the $20-billion (R120-billion) with just 0.2 percent of its GDP.

The report endorses British Chancellor Gordon Brown's proposal to front-load financial assistance to Africa through a financing facility which will raise funds now on capital markets on the surety of future development assistance.

The aim is to kickstart African economies, so making them less dependent on aid in the future.

Stern said although wealthy nations had been sceptical in the past about Africa's ability to use aid properly, the 17-member commission (including nine Africans) was convinced that Africa had changed so that it was now able to absorb large injections of funds.

The consultation document says: "Africa is changing. There is less conflict, more leadership and there are more democracies through the African Union. Through Nepad and at national level, Africa is taking on its own economic and social problems.

"And, according to World Bank indices, governance has been improving faster in Africa than in most other areas of the developing world."

The proposals also include strong support from the wealthy nations for African Peer Review Mechanism under Nepad which measures good governance.