African heads of state and government are meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss an ambitious development program. The New African Initiative, which was adopted by the Organization of African Unity last July, outlines broad poverty-reducing goals for sub-Saharan Africa.

The New African Initiative is a merger of the Omega Plan of Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, and the Millennium Africa Recovery Program, the brainchild of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Political leaders in Africa say it is necessary to act, because the continent's poverty stands in shocking contrast with the prosperity of the developed world. U.N. statistics show that 340 million people in Africa live on less than $1 a day.

The development program has broad support from African leaders, who adopted it last July at the summit of the Organization of African Unity in Lusaka, Zambia. Western nations also have praised the initiative.

The program's goals, outlined in a 70 page manifesto, are as varied as they are ambitious. The blueprint outlines no fewer than 50 objectives, most of which Mr. Mbeki and Mr. Wade want Africa to achieve in the next 15 years.

These include slashing extreme poverty by half, reducing child mortality rates by two-thirds and enrolling all children in primary schools by the year 2016.

The plan calls for African states to promote good governance and democratic norms, in order to improve the continent's business climate.

It says African states must pool their resources to attract international investors, noting that many countries are too small and poor to draft and implement development strategies on their own.

The plan says economic integration should also help Africa develop its telecommunications networks and other areas of infrastructure.