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African Officials Concerned Iraq Reconstruction Will Draw Resources from Their Region - 2003-04-12


African officials attending the current (April 10-13) meetings at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington are stressing Africa's need for additional development assistance as well as its own development initiative.

African countries worry that the current emphasis on reconstruction in Iraq could draw resources away from Africa. Gerald Ssendaula, Uganda's minister of finance, said "While [he rich countries] should attend to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Africa is also in their need for resources to get rid of poverty, to get safe water to reach people, to get education, and so on."

Members of the African caucus at the IMF say earlier crises, Afghanistan in 2001, Kosovo in 1999, and before that eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism, drew resources away from African development. Rich countries are promising to step up their aid for Africa.

The African ministers are focusing on Nepadm the African initiated partnership for development that was unveiled a year ago. Mr. Ssendaula says Nepad's key component is peer review, where participating countries assess each other's economic policies. This, said Mr. Ssendaula, represents a huge change. "We had an OAU charter which stated that you should never interfere in the internal affairs of other states," he said. "But you're introducing now an arrangement where you're allowed to peer review into other states. So you have to be very accommodative and see that you move the people gradually."

Nepad seeks conflict resolution and a strengthening of institutions promoting good governance. Tim Tehane, Lesotho's finance minister, said his country is ready for Nepad's peer review. "I think about 14 countries have been identified and are ready. And to the 14 I can add Lesotho, so 15 countries, and there may be more, that are ready to go on peer review," he said.

Critics both in and outside Africa say Nepad is moving too slowly. The initiative was put forward by South Africa, the current chairman of the African Union.

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