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World Economic Forum Focuses on Africa


Some of the world's most powerful political and business figures turned their focus to Africa Friday, as they met at the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA, the report card is mixed when it comes to meeting development pledges to one of the world's most impoverished areas.

Intentions have been good when it comes to helping Africa become a wealthy, prosperous and peaceful continent. But experts and politicians at a special session on Africa at the World Economic Forum in Davos agreed the delivery has been piecemeal.

The roundtable included leaders such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Microsoft head Bill Gates.

African Development Bank President Donald Kabaruka says the time has never been more favorable for Africa to shine.

"I think that Africa has the first chance in 30 years to make rapid progress," said Mr. Kabaruka. "Of course, people think this is because of commodity prices, oil and gas and so on. Of course the favorable international prices have helped. Debt cancellation has been of some use, and effective use of external resources has been a factor, but the real determining factor has been Africa's own efforts."

Kabaruka says that includes strides in political reform, governance and peace dividends in certain African countries.

At the same time, critics say, Western and African leaders have failed to deliver on other development promises. A new OECD report finds that, while international aid grew last year, development aid targeting Africa actually fell.

And the nonprofit Oxfam predicts that the Group of Eight industrialized nations are unlikely to meet pledges made in 2005 to boost aid to Africa by $25 billion, among other goals. But at Davos, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck said Africa will be on the agenda at this year's G-8 summit, which Germany is hosting.

South African President Thabo Mbeki also outlined other shortcomings, including the lack of capacity in African countries to carry out development promises.

"Yes, we've made progress, but satisfied? No," he said. "From the point of view of what is shown to be insufficient capacity to do things, which were agreed."

Africa's development also depends on the outcome of blocked world trade negotiations. But under the right conditions, some at Davos say, there is no reason why Africa cannot reap the same development successes as parts of Asia.

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