G8 is 'a beginning' for Africa
09/07/2005 11:57  - (SA) 
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Alessandra Rizzo
Gleneagles - The leaders of the Group of Eight powerful nations agreed to support Africa with a $50bn aid package, debt cancellation and progress toward a deal on fair trade.

G8 leaders also pledged universal access to Aids treatment as they unveiled a support plan on Friday for the world's poorest continent.

"It isn't the end of poverty in Africa, but it is the hope that it can be ended. It isn't all everyone wanted, but it is progress - real and achievable progress," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said. He was flanked by the other G8 leaders and the leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Some aid groups said the pledges didn't go nearly far enough. But Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo described the G8 summit a "great success," and rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono declared victory in their campaign to push leaders at the G8 summit to double aid to the continent.

"This is a positive step in the right direction and one should not sneer. But it is only a start," said Augustin Fosu, director of economic and social policy at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

G8 leaders were only beginning to meet commitments they made years ago and they still have not met their commitment to spend 0.7 percent of their GDP on foreign aid, a pledge they made in 1970, Fosu said.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz hailed the plan, but said its success depended on rich nations and African leaders delivering on their commitments.

John Stremlau, an international relations expert at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, said: "The devil is in the detail. It is not really money that is the problem, but how it is spent."

With a last-minute pledge from Japan, Blair won a key victory from world leaders, announcing that aid to Africa would rise from the current $25bn to $50bn.

In addition, leaders signalled support for new deals on trade, cancelled the debt of some of the world's poorest nations, pledged universal access to Aids treatment, committed to a peacekeeping force in Africa and heard African leaders promise to move toward democracies that follow the rule of law, Blair said.

"All of this does not change the world tomorrow. It is a beginning, not an end. And none of it today will match the same ghastly impact as the cruelty of terror," Blair said, referring to Thursday's bombings in London, which killed at least 50 people.

The summit also ended with a call on the Sudanese government and rebels in its western region of Darfur to end the fighting, saying the unrest threatened a hard-won peace deal in an unrelated war in southern Sudan. The statement also praised African Union peacekeepers working in Darfur.