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Africa's Economic Commissioner Urges Belt-Tightening, Self-Reliance


Africa's top economic official is warning the continent to become more self-reliant in order to withstand the global financial slowdown. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa has details.

African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs Maxwell Mkwezalamba says it is clear donor countries hit by the financial downturn will have a hard time living up to their development aid commitments. He told reporters African countries that receive as much as 40 percent of their budgets as donations from wealthy countries must brace themselves for shortfalls.

"We should move towards being self-sufficient. We cannot continue to depend on aid forever. And this is the message that has to get to African countries," he said.

Earlier, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping announced an African economic summit for next month. Ping urged African leaders to pursue prudent monetary and fiscal policies to ease the effects of the current crisis.

The Africa summit is to be held November 12 in Tunis, days before a scheduled global summit in Washington.

Mkwezalamba noted with concern this week's multi-billion-dollar International Monetary Fund loans to help European countries Hungary and Ukraine stave off economic collapse. He worries that those huge rescue packages will cut deeply into IMF funds that might otherwise be available to Africa.

"I think only yesterday we heard the IMF announcing a bailout package for Ukraine. I think it was about $16 billion or so, and today they have yet again approved another loan to Hungary for $15.7 billion, clearly this was with the same resources we have been competing for. And it may mean therefore that fewer resources would be made available to other countries, and particularly African countries," he said.

Mkwezalamba asked rhetorically if, were an African nation to experience the same difficulties as Hungary and Ukraine, would the IMF be able to come up with the same level of cash bailout?

Mkwezalamba is urging African leaders to look at what he calls domestic resource mobilization, to tide their countries through what are widely expected to be difficult times ahead. Among measures he mentioned were broadening tax bases by making tax rates more reasonable in an effort to raise more revenue, and increasing trade among African nations.

Amid fears of a recession, the IMF recently trimmed its growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa to six percent for this year and next, down from 6.5 percent.