Food prices rises 'threaten to wreck Africa's progress'

Rising food prices threaten to destroy years of economic progress in Africa and drive 100 million people into poverty, a watchdog group warned today.

The Africa Progress Panel also said wealthy countries were likely to fail in their promise to deliver billions more in aid to the continent by 2010.

The panel was formed last year to focus world leaders’ attention on the continent and monitor progress toward meeting ambitious aid commitments. Its 11 members include former prime minister Tony Blair and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof.

“Africa has made substantial progress in recent years,” said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who chairs the panel.

“However, the current food crisis threatens to reverse many of the hard-fought gains that have been made,” he said. “With 100 million people on the brink of abject poverty, the cost of food will not be measured in the price of wheat and rice, but in the rising number of infant and child deaths across Africa.”

In its annual report, the panel called on leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations to “urgently fund shortfalls against their targets to double assistance to Africa by 2010.”

The July 2005 G-8 summit in Gleneagles won commitments to increase foreign aid by 50 billion dollars a year by 2010 – with half of that going directly to Africa – and to cancel the debt of the most heavily indebted poor nations.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported in April that foreign aid by major donor countries slumped in 2007 as debt-relief plans tapered off and amid a global economic downturn in Japan and some other rich nations.

The Africa Progress Panel concluded that despite increases in assistance by some countries, “the G-8’s commitment to double assistance to Africa by 2010 is not likely to be fulfilled.” It said current commitments fell 40 billion dollars short of the Gleneagles target.

The panel called on the G-8 countries – America, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada – to tackle the food crisis and promote trade, infrastructure and governance reforms when they meet in Hokkaido, Japan, next month.

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