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G8 Leaders Examine Goals, Shortcomings on Emergency Africa Aid


Leaders of the world's advanced economies have been meeting with counterparts from some of the world's poorest African nations on the first day of the G8 summit in northern Japan. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Hokkaido, the G8 leaders are facing criticism for failing to come through on promises they made to Africa's neediest inhabitants.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Monday the main challenges facing the G8 summit are of special importance to Africa.

"Food and fuel, sustenance and energy, malnutrition and health, it does not get more basic than that," he said.

G8 leaders discussed those themes with invited leaders from eight African nations here in northern Japan, at a secluded resort hotel in Toyako. Two years ago, at a similar gathering in Scotland, the G8 promised to boost aid to Africa to $50 billion per year by 2010.

Max Lawson, representing the aid group Oxfam, says only a trickle of that amount, about $3 billion a year, has actually been sent. He says he is closely watching drafts of this summit's final communiqué.

"You can see that the G8 are keen to gradually step away from the promises they made ... to increase aid by 50 billion [dollars]. If we don't see this in the communiqué, then that's the betrayal of a promise," said Lawson.

Lawson says ordinary Africans are suffering because of misplaced priorities among rich nations.

Aid groups like Oxfam say international funds help buy life-saving drugs crucial in fighting Africa's epidemics of AIDS and malaria.

Kumi Naidoo, South African head of the group Global Call to Action Against Poverty, is frustrated at the apparent lack of urgency on Africa among wealthy nations.

"If 6,000 people were dying every single day from HIV/AIDS in North America and Europe, would the G8 not have long time ago found the resources and fixed the problem?" asked Naidoo.

Oliver Buston, with the anti-poverty group One, says soaring food prices are also taking their toll on Africa.

"In London, where I'm from, the price of pasta goes up 40 [pence] - it's annoying. But when the price of food goes up 40 percent, and you're living on a dollar a day, it's life threatening," said Buston.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, also joining the summit, said Monday the effects of global warming are already harming Africa's agriculture. Aid groups say the drive by large corporations to produce agriculturally derived biofuels in Africa are further squeezing the continent's food supply, while pushing up prices.

Joseph Ssuma, a farmer and activist from Uganda, says the biofuel industry is "easily one of the most threatening interruptions of African production."

"This is slowly exerting pressure on land, and pressure on people who are involved in farming, because it is flagged as an alternative, 'you'll make money.' But the costs that this will bring to people are not clearly articulated," said Ssuma.

European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced Monday about $1.5 in unused European farm subsidies will now be channeled to Africa. But aid groups and African leaders are hoping for a far more robust aid commitment before the summit ends Wednesday.