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African Leaders Launch Anti-Poverty Program - 2001-10-24

Several African leaders have met in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to formally launch an ambitious anti-poverty program for sub-Saharan Africa. However, the plan's sponsors said little about how they will achieve their goal of slashing extreme poverty by half by the year 2016.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo welcomed nine African heads of state and other officials for the one-day summit in Abuja.

Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, the chief sponsors to the so-called New African Initiative, were among those on hand.

In a his speech before the closed-door meeting began, President Obasanjo said it is essential to reverse a trend of pessimism and increasing poverty, disease and infant mortality in Africa.

The participants issued a statement after the summit, saying they had changed the program's name to New Partnership for African Development. No other specifics were immediately forthcoming.

The heads of state and government gave no details on the ways in which they hope to finance the initiative, which calls for massive investment in infrastructure and education. The international community had praised the African leaders for drafting the plan, adopted last July at the summit of the 53-nation Organization of African Unity.

The partnership outlines no fewer than 50 objectives, most of which Mr. Mbeki and Mr. Wade want Africa to reach in the next 15 years. These include plans to reduce infant mortality and extreme poverty and achieve high rates of Internet usage throughout the continent.

The manifesto drafted by the Senegalese and South African leaders also calls for wider acceptance of good governance and democratic norms.

According to U.N. statistics, some 340 million Africans currently live on less than $1 a day.