U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked donor nations to contribute $72 billion a year to help Africa cut extreme poverty, reduce disease and improve health care and education. Mr. Ban made the appeal at a high-level meeting on Africa on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Mr. Ban warned the delegates at the special session on Africa's development needs that currently no African country will achieve these goals by the target date of 2015 - just seven years away. But he said that with concerted action from African governments and their development partners, these objectives - known as the Millennium Development Goals - remain achievable in Africa.

"It will cost about $72 billion per year in external financing to achieve the goals by 2015. This price tag may look daunting. But it is affordable, and falls within existing aid commitments."

But his appeal coincides with a deepening world financial crisis that could dampen rich countries' willingness to increase funding to Africa.

Several roundtable discussions took place throughout the day on how to gain momentum toward moving the continent closer to achieving the goals by 2015.

Speaking in his capacity as African Union Chairperson, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told reporters that Monday's meeting is intended to discuss the challenges and needs facing the continent's development, as well as the implementation of commitments and the way forward. He said the General Assembly would adopt a political declaration to reaffirm the international community's commitment to Africa. Mr. Kikwete stressed that while the continent would like a partnership with the international community, African leaders realize it is up to them to solve their region's problems.

"African leaders themselves have clearly stated their intention to firmly tackle the continent's problems and they have repeatedly acknowledged their primary responsibility to do so," he said.

While no new major financial commitments were announced Monday following the secretary-general's appeal, major donor countries reaffirmed their promise to continue helping Africa.