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Wealthy Nations Yet To Fulfill MDG Pledge

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called on wealthy nations to provide $70 billion a year to help Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). He made the comments during his opening address to the General Assembly on Monday. The call comes as the United States and other industrialized nations are experiencing a serious financial crisis.
Lamine Ngiaye is Pan Africa advisor for the aid agency OXFAM.

From his Washington office, he told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga that wealthy nations have not yet fulfilled the commitments they made in 2000 towards meeting the objectives of the MDGs. “That is what they needed to do from the beginning, in 2000, when they made that commitment. As we speak now, those commitments have not been fulfilled.”

He said the current financial turmoil might not help but added, “We should not forget that the urgency is not to rescue big multinational (organizations) but to rescue people that are dying every day and those suffering from hunger, poor health and malnutrition.”

On whether the donor community will heed Ban Ki Moon’s call for $70 billion a year to help Africa, Ngiaye said it might be easy to convince them (donor community), since this is a short-term commitment. “But the long-term commitment we are advocating for is to invest in the strategic sectors, such as agriculture, health and education. Right now African governments are not investing enough in these sectors.”

He said, for example, that African governments are not investing in agricultural development, even though 60 percent of Africans live in rural areas. “African governments are responsible for not doing enough, but the rich countries are also responsible for this development because of the subsidies they give to their farmers.”

He said these agricultural subsidies have been responsible for artificially reducing the prices of commodities in the rich nations, while destroying the agricultural sector in developing countries.

Ngiaye said Africa still needs aid, but the rich nations are spending more money on buying food outside Africa than they are giving in direct aid to the continent. “Africa is receiving about $two billion in aid a year but the donors are spending $25 billion to import food from elsewhere. The logical conclusion should be to invest that money ($25 billion) in agricultural development in Africa.”

He said he hopes the current crisis will be an opportunity to focus on investment in Africa in the agricultural, educational, and health sectors. “If we do not do that, we are going to have to pay more for food because the cost of food is rising.”

Ngiaye said he is optimistic that the MDG will be achieved. “It is possible to reach the target if the donor community is organized. Currently there is a lack of coordination; so many initiatives are not coordinated. And African governments also need to increase their investments in the MDG,” he concluded.