A new report on Africa commissioned by the British government was unveiled in London, New York and Addis Ababa on Friday with a call on donor countries to boost their aid to Africa by up to US$ 25 billion a year, step up the fight against corruption, boost infrastructure aid, and make trade fairer.
The report of the Commission for Africa chaired by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, is intended initially for the Group of Eight (G8) summit of industrialised nations when they meet in Gleneagles, Scotland in July, and the European Union, as part of what a British government official described as an “ongoing initiative driven by Africa for Africa”. Its recommendations will also be brought to the review meeting in New York in September of the United Nations Millennium Declaration which set the eight Millennium Development Goals five years ago.
For the first time in such a report, it acknowledged the crisis of growing urbanisation in Africa. UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Tibaijuka, of 17 internationally known members of the Commission, presented figures showing that Africa has the world’s fastest annual rate of urbanization. The annual average urban growth rate is 4 per cent - twice as high as Latin America and Asia. Already, 37 percent of Africans live in cities, and by the year 2030 this is expected to rise to 53 per cent. But many of those seeking a better life in cities end up in sprawling urban slums. Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s largest proportion of urban residents living in slums. These slums are home to roughly 72 per cent of urban Africa’s citizens. That percentage represents a total of 187 million people.
“Africa is on the move, and the rapid urbanisation of the continent has to be recognised both for its potential problems and its genuine possibilities,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said. “Already, and in spite of all the difficulties, urban areas in Africa can be credited with producing 60 percent of the GDP. If managed properly, African Cities and towns could provide the critical link between the development of rural areas and the larger global community,” she said.
Acknowledging that pledges to Africa by Western donors have been systematically broken in the past, the report said: “What began as the greatest bond between the rich and the poor for our times now risks turning into the greatest betrayal of the poor by the rich of all time.”
Urging a “massive” increase in aid for Africa, the report called for the abolition of unpayable debts and new rules to make trade fairer – demands raised consistently by African leaders over the years, as well as at gatherings like the World Social Summit. It also called for a development spending to be doubled, particularly for health and the fight against HIV/AIDS. It said new funding had to go towards primary schooling, and demanded for funds for university education, to create the workers needed for developed economies.
The report proposes a two-phase increase in aid with a third of the initial amount of resources needed – an estimated US$12.5 billion, being provided by Africa itself through extra growth, with the other two-thirds coming from aid increases. Subject to improvements the managerial and administrative capacity of African governments, this aid would be increased to $25bn a year, it said.
The report said Africa would need US$50 billion by 2010, of which US$ 20 billion had to go on ports, roads, airports, telecommunications and other infrastructure. Officials described this as a further new direction by donor countries, which have held infrastructure assistance back, in part because of concern about corruption.
This time, it said Africa had to play its part in ensuring better and more transparent governance. It called on the developed world to play a much greater role in policing corrupt payments and giving back funds deposited by African in European banks by African dictators.
“Corruption is systemic in much of Africa today. Corruption has a corrosive effect on efforts to improve governance, yet improved governance is essential to reduce scope for corruption,” it said. “The amount stolen and now held in foreign bank accounts is equivalent to more than half the continent's external debt.”
The report noted that not a single G8 nation had signed the UN anti-corruption convention, committing the West to repatriate stolen funds. “It is pointless for the developed world to bemoan African corruption when it does not take the measures needed to counter it,” the report said.
For further details see
The Commission’s website: http://184.108.40.206