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Annan To Keep Africa a Priority at G-8 Summit - 2002-06-25

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan carries with him an agenda for Africa as he travels to Canada for the G8 summit of the world's major industrialized countries.

African development was a major topic at last year's G8 meeting in Genoa. Secretary-General Kofi Annan intends to make sure this year's meeting in Canada keeps Africa a priority issue.

"What is important is that African leaders have come together determined to improve the economic and social conditions of the continent, and now are determined to improve governance, rule of law, regulatory systems, and in exchange are asking the developed nations to work with them, not only in increased development assistance and debt relief but also to encourage investment," he said.

But it is the investment part of the equation that troubles many in the industrialized world. Africa's long-standing ethnic conflicts have deepened the poverty in the region. They also have discouraged investment.

Secretary-General Annan says he wants the major powers to make a new political commitment to helping end Africa's wars.

"I think it is a prerequisite for African economic development," he said. "No one invests in bad neighborhoods. And the conflicts really create the impression Africa is a continent in crisis and no one is going to rush there to invest."

International efforts to "fix" Africa's economic situation are hampered by disagreements over basic strategies. A U.N.-appointed panel, led by a former finance minister of Ghana, recently concluded that development driven by free market forces and privatization is limited and can be counter-productive. That message does not sit well with certain elements in the United States, including some officials in the Bush administration.

Yet everyone acknowledges that the stakes are high, especially in human terms. The latest figures show an estimated 80 million Africans live in poverty today, a sharp increase over the past decade.