G8: Plan for Africa a priority

G8 leader Germany is pledging to make Africa a central point of next month’s summit and is calling for more aid, further debt relief and improved financial oversight.

G8 leader Germany is pledging to make Africa a central point of next month’s summit and is calling for more aid, further debt relief and improved financial oversight.

However, critics today claimed that the issue is being given too little attention as finance ministers from the world’s leading industrial powers met and prepared for the June 6-8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.

Two years ago, a British-hosted G8 summit focused on forgiving debt to Africa and helping it run itself better in a bid to lift the continent from poverty.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck and his G8 colleagues were being joined for this weekend’s meeting by officials from Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria, and by Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank.

A working paper prepared by Germany for the gathering argued that making African countries more accountable would lead to improved public finances - which, in turn, will lead to more transparency and investment from abroad.

It also calls for more development aid and further debt relief.

Aid and advocacy groups contended that previous promises and pledges have fallen short because of a lack of action and attention.

The finance ministers “must not ignore the G8 crisis of credibility on aid to Africa,” said Oliver Buston, the European director of Debt Aids Trade Africa, or DATA, which was formed by U2 singer Bono.

“They should lay the financial groundwork for a successful emergency session at Heiligendamm to get the G-8 on track to meet their promises,” Buston said.

“The amounts needed are pocket change for the G-8 economies, but are life and death for millions in Africa,” said Max Lawson, a senior policy adviser for Oxfam International.

“Of course African countries should be transparent with their budgets and improve financial governance, and many are doing just that, but this cannot be used as an excuse to avoid discussion of the G8’s own financial failings.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week pledged a “particular focus” on Africa at this year’s summit.

“We know that we can really help with our resources,” she said. “We want to show to this continent our understanding of freedom, justice and solidarity is not limited to us, but goes for the whole world.”

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