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London G20 expected to spotlight Africa
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08:53, March 27, 2009

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Britain has pledged that poor countries will have their voices heard, and insists their problems need to be addressed at the G20 London summit in April.

Britain's commitment is particularly focused upon Africa. Without involving the continent, Britain says that solutions cannot be found to deal with the global economic, security and climate challenges.

However, only South Africa, the African Union, and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) will represent the 53-nationcontinent at the London summit.

The conference, which will gather the nations that produce 85 percent of the world's GDP, is viewed as "significant and critical" to salvage the struggling world economy.

In an attempt to fulfill its promise, London recently hosted a roundtable during which some of the most important political leaders of Africa gathered to discuss problems facing the continent during the global downturn.

Prior to the meeting, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has expressed the need for the G20 to help developing economies.

"This will make sure that the conclusions of the G20 do take into account, by direct input from the countries concerned, the needs of the developing countries," he said at a London conference on the world poverty in early March.

The meeting, hosted by the Department for International Development, sent a warning message that the economic downturn could devastate the developing world as 90 million more people are forced into poverty by the end of 2010.

Protection of the poor has been placed high on the agenda at the G20 summit, though its core task is to stabilize the global financial system and put the global economy back on track.

Lord Malloch-Brown, British Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, has warned that "without addressing issues facing Africa, and allow African voices to be heard, the G20 will fail morally."

However, it is still open to question whether the G20 will bring substantial benefits to Africa.

The poverty-stricken continent has drawn increasing attention as a key supplier for global growth with its natural resources and potentially huge markets.

Issues facing Africa concerning sustainable development and combating poverty have intensified as the recession sweeps around the world.


The decrease in international aid and investment in Africa is a direct effect of the financial crisis, the London-based African Foundation for Development told Xinhua, without elaborating.

"As jobs are disappearing in the West, the amount of remittances sent home by Africans working in the West is declining," said AFFORD Information Officer Onyekachi Wambu.

In 2006, the amount sent back to Africa stood at 25 billion U.S. dollars, providing an invisible welfare system in many African countries, he said.

The collapse in market demands in the West is also believed to slow down Africa's exports of natural resources and commodities.

"We see already that companies like Anglo-American are laying off workers in South Africa, so we can expect to see increased poverty in Africa. However, it is fair to say that we do not yet fully understand how all this will pan out," he said.

Wambu was hopeful that the G20 might help solve much of the financial corruption that exists in parts of Africa.

"One area that the G20 summit will be incredibly beneficial to Africa is to close down or more closely and transparently regulate the off-shore banking havens. These have been the route for much of the corruptly gained money leaving Africa," he said.

"At a difficult time when all governments are scaling back, we need to ensure that the commitments made to Africa at the G8 summits during the past few years remain on the table."

Talking about free trade and protectionism, Wambu said that Africa needs to deal with the agricultural subsidies in Europe and the United States that destroy African farmers.


Wambu's opinions are shared by the London-based Center for Democracy and Development, which aims to build sustainable democracy and development in West Africa.

During an interview with Xinhua, the CDD's international office coordinator, Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell, said that rich countries are likely to adopt a more protectionist stance that would penalize imports from poor countries, including those in Africa.

For decades, the world has followed a financial model that has created an economy fuelled by ever-increasing inequality and debt, both financially and environmentally, Aboa-Bradwell said.

The CDD expects the financial crisis could make governments more aware of the interconnections of contemporary global economies and thus, not underestimate the potentially devastating effects that a collapse of developing countries' economies could have on the rest of the world, she said.

She urged international financial institutions to act more promptly and transparently to meet the ever-growing needs of developing countries, especially the much-needy African ones.

The African Development Bank should play a stronger role as a central actor in African economic development with the assistance, rather than the overarching control, of the World Bank, she said.

The CDD said that Brown's call for more African countries to be involved in the G20 should be translated into tangible initiatives.

Aboa-Bradwell said that there was a risk that these promises would "remain mere rhetorical exercises" especially "given the surfacing self-interest Western and other rich countries are showing in the face of the crisis."

A green global economy, which is to be highlighted at the G20, is expected to bring more investors to Africa. This would, she said, allow African national policies to be oriented toward sustainable development.

The CDD is joining other environmental and development organizations to participate in a campaign, called Put People First, to urge the G20 to create an economy based on the fair distribution of wealth, decent jobs for all and a low carbon future.

Source: Xinhua

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