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African, European Leaders Push for Liberalization


Leaders from African and European nations are discussing how liberalizing their economies and societies could benefit their nations. Kari Barber attended their meeting in Dakar and has this report for VOA.

Diplomats and presidents from across Africa met with European officials to call for support in developing sustainable economies and enacting reforms that would create more open societies.

Recently re-elected Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade led the conference.

Mr. Wade says the fundamental purpose of liberalism is to increase wealth, but he says for this to happen reforms must be approached on many sides.

He says it is crucial to look for opportunities for political, economic, social, cultural and scientific development.

Mr. Wade pointed to a new drive in Senegal to get more women in government positions as proof of his efforts to improve social inequalities.

Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said liberalizing his country meant allowing greater public scrutiny of the government.

"In my country, the one major factor that has been blamed for the outbreak of war and the precipitous decline of the state is bad governance," said Kabbah. "This was characterized by long years of incompetent and uncaring administration."

Foreign Minister of Andorra and Vice President of Liberalism International Juli Minevos says African countries face special difficulties in providing the social services and equality needed for governments that seek to be liberal and democratic.

"Poverty basically makes it difficult to carry out the reforms," said Minevos. "It is easier to promise to the people we will just distribute, but if you do not create wealth somehow, you can not distribute anything."

Minevos says explaining to the public when reforms are happening and how the country will benefit down the road is essential to a successful open society.

"Without the trust of the people themselves, in this case Senegal or any African country, it is very difficult to build a prosperous society," added Minevos.

Small business owner Elhadj Doudou Ciss watched the meeting from the balcony section of the hall.

Ciss says he sees many of the wealthy nations in the world choosing open markets and open societies, so he thinks if it is good for those countries, it must be good for Senegal as well.

The conference will continue Tuesday when delegates are to attend Mr. Wade's swearing in for his second term as president.