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African Leaders Hold Talks to Assess NEPAD's Progress - 2003-05-28


African leaders are meeting in Nigeria to discuss ways to boost peacekeeping capabilities and increase regional economic development. Talks in Abuja focused on assessing what economic advances Africa has made since African leaders adopted the New Partnership for Africa's Development two years ago.

Next week, the G8 nations are to meet in France, and G8 leaders have indicated they will increase aid and debt relief if NEPAD, as the African-led initiative is known, delivers on promises of economic and political reform. Officials from African nations have been invited to attend the G8 summit, taking place in Evian, France.

William Lyakurwa, the director of the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium, said it is important for African leaders, when they go to Evian, to be seen as united in their development efforts. "At the G8 meeting, it would be useful for African governments to present a common voice in terms of their concerted efforts at improving governance, attacking issues of poverty and the pandemic of HIV/AIDS which are central concerns and also to get the voice from the G8 as to what extent the G8 is prepared to assist African governments to move forward," Mr. Lyakurwa said.

Mr. Lyakurwa said until 10 years ago African economies were inward-looking, and that they still lack the necessary infrastructure to effectively compete on the global market. He also said a stable democratic environment is needed to earn the trust of trading partners.

Leaders from West Africa organized a separate meeting in Abuja to discuss regional peacekeeping efforts in Ivory Coast, where French soldiers as well as a West African force and a U.N. mission are helping put an end to eight months of civil war. The conflict has hurt the Ivory Coast economy, as well as those of many land-locked neighboring countries that use Ivorian ports as points of transit.

The Economic Community of West African states was slow to react to the Ivorian civil war, which broke out in September, needing several months before being able to send a small peacekeeping force. ECOWAS has a peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast with more than 1,000 soldiers from five countries, Senegal, Benin, Togo, Niger, and Ghana.

ECOWAS officials say they would like to establish a rapid-reaction force that would be able to send hundreds of troops to a conflict area in a matter of weeks.