Hundreds of people from West Africa are gathering in Sikasso, Mali, this week, to bring attention to problems they say developed countries are ignoring. The anti-globalization and anti-poverty campaigners call their meeting a people's poverty forum that is intended to counter the G-8 summit of the world's wealthiest countries this week in Germany. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.
Forum organizers say world leaders preparing to gather for the G-8 meeting have not met promises to reduce poverty in Africa.
When leaders from the world's wealthiest countries met at the G-8 Summit two years ago, they promised to double aid to Africa by 2010 and to cancel $40 billion in multilateral debt owed by 14 African countries.
But Barry Aminata Toure, president of the Mali-based Coalition for African Alternatives to Debt and Development and organizer of this week's forum, says the G-8 countries do not understand the extent of the problem.
She says these leaders do not know the reality of poverty Africans face everyday. She says it is time for the more-advantaged countries to back up their promises with concrete plans.
According to the international non-profit organization DATA, which has lobbied world leaders for Africa's debt relief, the G-8 countries have mostly kept their promise on debt cancellation, but have only given half of what they promised in aid.
U.N. poverty advisor Jeffrey Sachs was present when the leaders made their promise two years ago. He says many are still in denial about Africa's problems. "The idea that just closing our eyes and pretending the problems will just go away is cruel," he said, adding, "The idea that somehow time will solve these problems is a mistake."
Forum organizer Toure says about 800 participants from Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Europe are attending the forum. They are discussing their countries soaring unemployment rates, falling crop revenues, huge donor debts, and boatloads of Africans risking their lives at sea as refugees.
Toure called for African countries to take charge of their own destinies. She said they are also proposing a Southern Bank as an alternative to the World Bank, which has policies many participants say hurt Africans.
Earlier this week, the World Bank said the world's wealthiest countries have fallen behind in fulfilling their promises to invest in Africa and make it easier for African businesses to compete internationally. The bank said many donor countries have increased support for special humanitarian assistance and debt reduction, but aid for development programs in many African countries remains flat.