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World Bank Urges More Aid to Africa - 2002-04-10

The Washington based-World Bank, the largest source of development aid for Africa, Wednesday called for rich countries to make good on their promise to boost aid to African countries. Bank officials are optimistic about the recently unveiled New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).

The World Bank says to reverse the effects of the AIDS epidemic, civil wars and sluggish growth, Africa urgently needs more assistance. Official aid to Africa fell from $17 billion in 1990 to $12 billion last year. Bank Vice President for Africa Callisto Madavo says the NEPAD initiative put together by the presidents of Senegal, South Africa and Nigeria promises aid will be better used than in the past.

"This is the first time that we have had an important initiative being developed and led by Africans," said Mr. Madavo. "So the ownership and leadership is key. But there is another aspect that makes this particular initiative different. Which is that it centers on a key issue in African development, which is the need to improve governance."

The United States last month promised to boost its aid to African countries that successfully restructure their economies and boost economic performance. Mr. Madavo calls the U.S. move significant and positive.

Alan Gelb, the bank's chief economist for Africa, says debt relief undertaken by the rich countries since 1998 is saving African countries $1 billion a year. Those savings, he says, are being well used, with "about 80 percent of the savings earmarked for identifiable poverty-related expenditures, whether on health, education, rural infrastructure, those kinds of areas."

Twenty-four African countries have had their foreign debts reduced by $26 billion.

Mr. Madavo says the World Bank is rightly insisting that debt relief be linked to effective poverty reduction programs. "We want quality poverty strategies," he said. "We want strategies that are really going to direct these resources to produce the kind of results that we are looking for. So in a certain sense it is self-paced in terms of the capacity of these countries to move forward."

Africa will again feature prominently at this year's summit of the Group of Eight industrial countries. The presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal will be attending the June 26 meeting in Canada where the Partnership for Africa program will be a main agenda item.