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British Report Challenges World to Solve Africa's Vexing Problems

An influential British-backed report examining solutions to the sweeping problems plaguing Africa has been published in London.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made helping Africa a key priority for Britain's presidency this year of both the European Union and the Group of Seven leading industrial nations plus Russia.

And central to that are the findings contained the 400-page Africa Commission report published Friday.

With Africa facing poverty, disease and conflict, Mr. Blair says debt must be canceled, fairer trade must be increased and more aid money must be funneled from the world's richest countries to the world poorest.

"Success is in our own hands in Africa and here in the wealthy countries of the world. Of one thing I am very sure, if we resolve to act, we will succeed. If we fail to act, we will betray the future not just of hundred of millions of children in Africa, but our own children too," Mr. Blair said.

One of the main recommendations of the report is a call to the international community to immediately double foreign aid to Africa to $50 billion.

Musician and Africa Commission member Bob Geldof says that kind of money is required to make a real impact. But he says on an individual basis, those in the wealthiest nations will not feel any drop in their personal standard of living.

"For the citizens of the G-7 countries, the seven richest countries in the world, is half a stick of gum every day. No jobs are lost, no taxes raised, no farms no factories closed," he said. "It is pathetic. Meanwhile, we have to watch on your news every night, more and more people dying of hunger, AIDS, T.B. (tuberculosis), malaria and polio. I think it should stop and today is the first day that maybe it will."

One of the biggest challenges will be to get all of the richest nations to agree on writing off the mountain of debt the poorest states are grappling with.

The report stresses too that corruption in certain African countries must be addressed in order for real progress to be made.

Although the hopes are high that the report can make a difference, many African observers doubt whether the plans will actually translate into action.

Rescue plans have been written before but opportunities have been lost. However, the report authors say this time things have to be different and they label 2005 as the "make or break" year for Africa.