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G8 Extends Debt Relief to African Nations - 2004-06-10

The eight-nation summit hosted by President Bush in the southern U.S. state of Georgia Thursday turned its attention to Africa. Six African leaders joined the meeting for what was called an outreach lunch. The Group of Eight leaders agreed to extend for another two years the debt relief initiative for the poorest African countries.

The European, Russian, Japanese and North American leaders are instructing their finance ministers to work out a deal to extend the debt relief program until the end of 2006. More resources will also be made available for what is called HIPIC (the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative). The World Bank administers the program. In recent years it has provided $31 billion of debt relief to 23 African countries.

The Group of Eight also endorsed an action plan for Africa in which they promise to train by 2010 75,000 African troops for regional peacekeeping operations. Italy, the United States, France, Germany and Britain will play major roles in administering the program, which is intended to bring stability and security to troubled regions in Africa.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that Africa takes security concerns very seriously and wants to create standby military forces for regional peacekeeping, but he added the troops must have good training.

?What I say we need is capacity building, which is training of our people,? he said. ?It is not enough to say we have troops who can move to a place. They must be adequately trained and equipped.?

Nigeria and the Group of Eight also say they will boost their efforts to combat corruption. Corruption is identified as a threat to democratic institutions.

The G8's European leaders are particularly supportive of Africa's New Partnership for Development (NEPAD) initiative. Under this two-year-old program, African nations are developing their own economic reform programs and then submitting their performance to peer review. Western countries promise to increase their assistance to reforming economies. NEPAD has been slow to make progress, but recently Ghana became the first African nation to step forward for peer review.

One of the reasons Africa has become a focus of attention for the G8 is that it is the only developing region where living standards have not improved over the past 25 years.