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NEPAD Summit Precedes AU Meeting

African officials have started a business and good governance forum in Nigeria, ahead of a weeklong African Union summit. Topics include investment, food security and poverty eradication.

Country representatives converged in Abuja Thursday to participate in a meeting of the Africa-wide good governance group called the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD).

NEPAD officials say that their development programs are different from other attempts to eradicate poverty in Africa because they address corruption while trying to create good business practices.

Recently, NEPAD has put forward a comprehensive agricultural policy for the continent. The executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, stressed the importance of restoring food security.

"We must give priority attention in Africa to agriculture," said Mr. Chambas. "It remains the largest employer. It continues to contribute the largest share to our GDP and employs the bulk, the overwhelming percentage of our population and yet we have hunger and starvation on the continent."

The NEPAD meeting is taking place before the African Union summit starts on Sunday. The 53-nation AU has acted as a forum to help end wars, but its work has been hampered by budget and logistical problems.

A research specialist at the Africa Institute of South Africa, Patrick Rankhumise, says that NEPAD has an important role in complementing the African Union.

"AU is the political wing in the continent so it is responsible for taking political decisions and it is responsible for seeing to it that there is intervention in terms of democratization in the continent and if AU can just fast rate it's process of seeing that there is democratization that will create a conducive environment for economic development and that is where NEPAD will be relevant, and that's where NEPAD will start to be visible round the continent," he explained.

However, a London-based Africa analyst, Gus Selassie, says there is a greater need to merge the agenda's of the two groupings.

"NEPAD was created before the AU so maybe NEPAD had a headstart on the AU in a number of areas. So maybe that might be why NEPAD appears to be operating independently from the AU," he said.

Mr. Selassie says that NEPAD, as an organization, has lost momentum and there is a danger that it will become another talking shop that discusses problems but fails to act.

The AU summit is scheduled to focus on its peacekeeping and mediation efforts to end the wars in Sudan and Ivory Coast.