An Africa advocacy group has called for leaders of the G8 industrialized nations to keep their promise to double aid to Africa by 2010.  In its report, the Africa Progress Panel warns failure to do so will set Africa back by decades and could drive millions into abject poverty.  Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

As chairman of the Africa Progress Panel, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the group's 2008 report.  Mr. Annan said Africa has posted impressive growth during the past few years, but that progress is now under threat by the rapid increase in food prices.   

"The hardest hit people are those who spend the largest proportion of their earnings on food," he said.  "So it is the poorest people in the poorest countries who are feeling the brunt of this catastrophe, it is not surprising that 21 of the 37 countries worst affected by high food prices are in Africa including four of the five countries deemed to be facing exceptional shortfalls."

The Africa Progress Panel calls for measures to increase the quantity of food on global markets and to provide greater financial assistance to international agencies such as the World Food Program and to the governments of affected countries.

Mr. Annan warned that the cost of not acting would be measured by a rising number of infant and child deaths across the continent.  He also reminded G8 countries to honor their promise made at their summit in 2005, and double assistance to Africa by 2010.

"Our report shows that at the present rate of progress the G8's pledge to double assistance to Africa by 2010 will not be fulfilled; there is a shortfall of $40 billion in aid," he said.  "We call on G8 countries urgently to address this gap, set clear timetables for delivery and increase transparency in order to improve the quality of aid."

Mr. Annan called for the G8 to address the shortfall at its summit in Japan next month.  He did not specify which countries are responsible for the shortfall.

Oxfam senior policy adviser Max Lawson said countries such as France, Italy, and Germany are some of the biggest defaulters.  He said the G8 represents 60 percent of the world's economy and the shortfall is not that much for the world's richest countries, even with the current economic crisis.

"The last six months the G8 has found over a thousand billion dollars, that is a trillion dollars to bail out their own banks, in comparison we are looking for $50 billion for Africa by 2010," he said. "It really is a drop in the ocean."

Lawson adds the missing money could save at least five million lives.