Reducing poverty in Africa was a key theme of the annual meeting of business and government leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that ended Saturday. The World Economic Forum also focused on environmental protection and improved global trade relations.
The need for action to fight poverty and disease in Africa resonated through five days of discussions. European presidents and prime ministers identified the widening gap in living standards between Africa and the rest of the world as a challenge to globalization. They promised more assistance, and said they would put Africa at the top of the international agenda.
The Irish rock star, Bono, was a formidable presence at Davos. He had kind words for the politicians who have responded to calls to end extreme poverty in Africa, a cause he has taken a particular interest in.
"Extreme poverty, or stupid poverty is actually the word I like, where a child dies for lack of immunization or for lack of food in its belly,” he said. “Or people die - I think it is 100,000 a month of malaria, people dying of a mosquito bite. So, we're going to say 'no' to that. And if we work together, we will prevail."
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the world's richest man, also spoke with passion of the need to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister, said Africa would be the centerpiece of the industrial summit Britain will host in July.
"I now sense that in 2005, hundreds, then thousands, then millions in every continent are coming together with such a set of insistent demands [to fight poverty] that no politician, no government, no world leader can ignore them," said Mr. Brown.
But Davos always focuses on more than one issue. There were more than 200 seminars on dozens of subjects.
The World Economic Forum prides itself on early identification of critical global issues. This year's meeting, like the ones that have proceeded it, was largely a networking session where the rich and powerful came together to share ideas and contacts.