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South Africa:  World Economic Forum Ignoring Africa - 2003-01-28

African leaders have complained that few of the continent's pressing financial and health concerns have been discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But, they say they are committed to reforms embodied in an initiative launched a year ago.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development program is designed to tackle escalating poverty levels in Africa through international trade and investment. Its goal is for African economies to grow at rates in excess of seven percent a year, in order to make real changes in the poverty levels.

To do this, African officials say, several countries must establish peace, improve governance, and adopt more effective development policies

South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel says there had been hope for dialogue and support for the program from the Davos Forum's power elite, but he says, Africa has received little attention at the six-day meeting.

"Africa did not feature. There was one small sideshow on the New Partnership for Africa's Development. It cannot be correct," he said. "It is understanding those kinds of points, and making a commitment to try to deal with it. But notwithstanding that, work will continue. I will give you the assurance that the preparatory work is continuing, that the heads of state would commit to the peer review mechanism. And come Evian [France], where the G-8 will meet this year, the [African] heads of state will go. We will continue to raise these issues wherever we can."

Mr. Manuel says Africa is making solid progress in the areas of conflict resolution, prevention, and management. The South African Finance Minister points to the Democratic Republic of Congo's recently signed peace agreement, and peace efforts in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia.

But he says, 4,000 Africans a day are being infected by HIV-AIDS, and that issue must also be addressed to enable Africa to work its way out of widespread poverty.