July 11, 2005. LA Times
Some Africa Experts Shrug at G-8 Largess
• Aid offers are kind but not necessarily useful, one observer says.
Many agree change ultimately must come from the continent's leaders.
By Warren Vieth, Times Staff Writer
GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Leaders of the world's richest nations toasted
their own beneficence. Africa advocates praised the leaders' commitment
to provide more aid. Live 8 impresarios Bono and Bob Geldof proclaimed
it a remarkable moment in history.
Yet to African-born economist George Ayittey, the hearty endorsements of
the just-concluded Group of 8 summit in Gleneagles had a familiar ring.
"We've seen all these things before," said Ayittey, an American
University professor who participated in a "Shadow G-8" conference in
Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. "It is noble to see the rich countries
wanting to help. But the solutions to Africa's problems lie in Africa
itself, and Africa's salvation should not depend on whether Westerners
attend rock concerts."
Ayittey's caution reflected concerns expressed by some Africa
specialists that the G-8's pledge to double aid to the continent may not
produce the results that the group's members and supporters were
predicting at the summit's closing Friday.
For several G-8 members, including the United States, the promise to
boost development aid to about $50 billion a year by 2010 is just a
repackaging of previous commitments, not generosity inspired by the
summit, several analysts said.
In addition, the increased assistance is unlikely to produce lasting
results unless African nations follow through on promises to undertake
difficult reforms and unless Western nations make sure their money is
not squandered, some summit observers and participants said.
Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who placed Africa at the top of
the summit agenda, acknowledged that the G-8's action plan would succeed
only if African leaders rose to the challenge.
"This can never be done on the basis of the old relationship of charity
between donor and recipient," Blair said. "In the end, it is only
vibrant African leadership, capable of giving good governance to its
people, that can make the ultimate difference, that will root out
corruption, that will entrench democracy and human rights and will make
sure that people respect the rule of law."
The G-8 plan was endorsed by seven African heads of state who
participated in the summit, and who promised to uphold their end of the
bargain outlined by Blair.
"Africa has looked forward to this particular meeting with great
expectation," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said at the
concluding news conference, calling the summit's outcome "a great
The G-8's initiative contains several proposals designed to alleviate
poverty, combat disease and improve living conditions on the world's
poorest continent. Besides agreeing to double development aid, members
promised to write off the debts of 14 African nations, train 20,000
peacekeepers, aim for universal access to AIDS treatment and increase
efforts to eradicate malaria and polio and improve education.
The Group of 8 — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy,
Japan, Canada and Russia — has no formal enforcement authority. But its
members generally feel bound by their commitments, and observers are
quick to call attention to any lapses.
Although most advocacy groups on the sidelines of the summit commended
the G-8 for paying more attention to Africa's plight, several said the
aid commitment consisted largely of previously announced pledges.
One notable exception was the last-minute offer of Japanese Prime
Minister Junichiro Koizumi to pony up an additional $10 billion over
Before heading to Gleneagles, President Bush promised to double U.S.
assistance to Africa by 2010, to at least $8.6 billion a year. But an
analysis by the Global AIDS Alliance concluded that only 7% of Bush's
pledge consisted of "new" money, with much of the remainder based on
previously planned increases in the administration's Millennium
Challenge Account initiative.
U.S. officials acknowledged as much.
"There wasn't a new commitment reflected in the text, but it was an
articulation of previous commitments that were already made," said
deputy national security advisor Faryar Shirzad, Bush's principal
emissary in the G-8 negotiations.
Ayittey, the American University economist, said he regarded last week's
events as part of a 10-year "attention-deficit cycle" on the part of
In a recently published book, "Africa Unchained," he contends that aid
has often been wasted and that progress has occurred in countries where
reforms were generated from within instead of imposed by outsiders.
"In 1985, we had the Live Aid thing for Ethiopia," Ayittey said in an
interview, referring to the rock benefit to fight poverty that was a
forerunner to Live 8. "Money was raised. Everybody went home. We all
forgot about Africa."
In 1996, a U.N. special initiative led to a commitment by wealthy
nations to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion. "Champagne glasses
were clicking," Ayittey said. "Two years later, everybody had forgotten
"Now, 10 years later, we have the same thing again," he said.