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African Leaders Seek G-8 Support for Recovery Plan - 2002-06-26

African leaders are expecting that leaders of the world's largest industrial nations meeting in Canada will support Africa's recovery plan. South African President Thabo Mbeki is helping lead efforts to convince the G-8 leaders that Africa is a good place for investment.

At the G-8 summit in Canada, leaders of the world's eight most developed nations will learn more about a plan aimed at building the economies of some of the least developed.

The New Economic Program for African Development, known as NEPAD, is a plan developed by the leaders of South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, and Algeria. It pledges that African nations will hold themselves to principles of good governance and democracy. In return, they ask for investment - not aid - from the industrialized world.

South African President Thabo Mbeki wrote earlier this week in The New York Times that, "A great moment is at hand - a chance for developed countries to make a sound investment while helping to break the cycle of African underdevelopment."

A professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, John Stremlau, said NEPAD is important to the G-8 countries as well as to Africa. "The G-8 cannot afford to have Africa be further marginalized in the global economy, given the record of humanitarian disasters and the possibility that it could be a groundswell for terrorism," he said, "but it's also fundamentally important for the G-8 because the G-8 stands for certain collective values. They've exploited Africa negatively; [now] they can exploit Africa for once positively, and show the world they really are serious about the kind of values they announce for themselves and are prepared to work with others willing to embrace those values."

In addition to making his case to the G-8 leaders in Canada, President Mbeki also has to sell the NEPAD program to skeptics on his own continent. Mr. Stremlau noted the launch of the African Union, which is replacing the Organization of African Unity, is just around the corner. "President Mbeki needs to go to the African Union with enough evidence of support, which is hard to define, from the G-8, so that he can persuade the 53 diverse countries of African Unity to endorse the process," he said. "There has to be a way for him to go to the [African] summit in Durban next month and say, 'look, the G-8 is serious about this.' And I think there'll be enough on the table to make it look serious."

Professor Stremlau said support for NEPAD is not uniform within the G-8. He said Britain, Canada and France strongly support it, but that backing from Japan, Germany, and Italy may not be as strong. The big question mark, he said, is the United States.