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African Ministers Appeal for Help to Fight AIDS

African officials attending the International Monetary Fund/World Bank meetings in Washington Sunday expressed satisfaction with the pick-up in the continent's economic growth, but emphasized that more money is needed to combat AIDS and malaria.

African finance ministers say more regional integration and better infrastructure are required to make Africa a bigger player in the world economy. Abdoulaye Diop of Senegal told reporters that Africa should have greater power in the IMF as today the 44 African countries account for only four and one half percent of the weighted votes in decision making. Mr. Diop complained that favored countries like Iraq and Afghanistan are unfairly receiving special treatment from the IMF. He suggested that sub-Saharan Africa, confronted with an unprecedented health crisis, should receive similar treatment.

Mr. Diop complained about the relatively slow implementation of the New Partnership for African Development, or Nepad, that was unveiled with considerable publicity three years ago. "To succeed, says Mr. Diop, Nepad needs a larger professional staff and more resources from rich countries. The Nepad partnership, largely developed by South Africa, is viewed as the first multi-lateral assistance program developed by Africans," he said.

Timothy Thahane, finance minister of Lesotho, said even though African countries are registering their highest growth rates in a decade, the recent scaling back of guaranteed market access in Europe and America for African textiles is causing problems. "So we are facing a transition challenge. So market access for African products and the identification of new products is critical," he said.

Mr. Thahane says employment in the textile sector in his land-locked country expanded by 400 percent in recent years. The global system of poor country preferences in textiles came to an end in January, but low-cost, China has grabbed a large share of the new market.

The Africans expressed support for the various debt forgiveness proposals being circulated. Britain, the host of an economic summit in July, is seeking to mobilize support for its plan to double the flow of development assistance to Africa.