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G-8 to Unveil  Aid, Trade Package to Support Africa's  Development - 2002-06-27

The Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis, Canada, will release on Thursday an Africa Action Plan intended to spur trade and investment in the continent that has benefited least from economic globalization.

Leaders from four African countries (South Africa, Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria), plus the Ghanaian secretary-general of the United Nations are attending this year's summit. The Africans are presenting details of NEPAD, their new partnership for African development.

Frank Chikane, a clergyman and aide to South African president Thabo Mbeki, said NEPAD is not just economic. It is human rights and a commitment to bring peace to a devastated continent. Mr. Chikane noted NEPAD is also a set of principles affirming democracy and good government.

"African leaders have seized the opportunity of this historical moment to deal with the challenges of Africa," he said. "They've held the bull by the horns, as I call it, in terms of the challenges that we have to face. And there is a commitment, and it has not been an easy-coming commitment, that we must stop these senseless wars on the African continent."

Mr. Chikane went on to say NEPAD is unique in that it is a purely African vision for the future development of the continent.

Wiseman Nkuhlu, another South African, who is the head of the NEPAD secretariat, said NEPAD is first of all, a compact between African leaders and their citizens.

"At the start, the program may not appear to be that radical, but the center piece is around one, the relationship between African leaders and the African people in the first place," he explained. "Governance issues that our African leaders must take seriously. That they are accountable to the African people and secondly, they are accountable to each other."

Mr. Nkuhlu said in its early stages, perhaps only five to 10 African countries are likely to subscribe to the NEPAD principles of accountability and good governance. Summit nations are likely to identify these countries as the best targets for investment, trade and assistance. G-8 countries say they are determined to boost economic assistance to Africa.

Mr. Chikane said NEPAD is addressing globalization because Africa wants to be a bigger player in the trade-based world economy. "If we don't do anything about it, Africa is likely to be marginalized even further and further," he emphasized. "And it is critical that we intervene and make a difference."

Mr. Nkuhlu, who chairs the NEPAD steering committee, made clear his opposition to many of the reform prescriptions of aid providers like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He is particularly opposed to premature tariff reductions on imports.

"No country ever started off by opening and liberalizing and allowing all kinds of imports into its economy and really putting food security at risk," said Mr. Nkuhlu. "It is only in Africa that this has been encouraged. And we find that food security is at risk because of the way policies have been sequenced and because Africans are not in charge. They have to listen to those who have to provide the money."

Mr. Nkuhlu says Africa lost its independence in recent years by becoming dependent on foreign aid.

This is not the first time that Africa has featured prominently at an economic summit. The initiatives to cancel debt were unveiled at G-8 summits in 1998 and 1999. But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has made Africa the centerpiece of this summit. And the tangible evidence of that is the presence of African leaders are here in western Canada.