G-8 Nations Should Redeem Gleneagles Pledges on Development Aid to Africa

Chinua Akukwe, contributing editor, June 4, 2007

Police stand guard at the gates of the Hohen Luckow Estate where Group of 8 leaders and their spouses are scheduled to hold a reception on June 6 at the start of the summit. (Photo: Jens Koehler / AFP-Getty Images)

The June 2007 Group of 8 conference in Heligendamm, Germany, is once again focusing on developing issues in Africa. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of the host nation, is reportedly set to make a push for her colleagues to meet the Africa aid pledges made at the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. This is the right approach as the nations have yet to redeem their pledges of substantial increases in development assistance to Africa.

At the Gleneagles summit, leaders agreed to double the aid to Africa by 2010: "Aid for all developing countries will increase, according to OECD [the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development], by around $50 billion per year, of which at least $25 billion extra per year [will be] for Africa." The Gleneagles conference also pledged to write off more than $40 billion worth of debts owed by the poorest countries of the world, including those in Africa. Today, these pledges are significantly off the mark.

The Africa Progress Panel set up to monitor progress on Group of 8 pledges in Africa and chaired by former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan estimates that only 10 percent of the Gleneagles pledges have been redeemed. The respected Overseas Development Institute of Britain estimated that aid to Africa in 2006 from Italy declined by 30 percent, from the United States by 20 percent, and from Japan by 10 percent. Britain increased aid to Africa by 2 percent and Germany by less than 1 percent during the same period. It is, however, gratifying to note that Germany is set to raise its development assistance to Africa by an additional $1 billion a year from 2008 and the United States is proposing to double its current $15 billion five-year program on H.I.V./AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa, South East Asia and the Caribbean.

The Gleneagles conference was a breakthrough in development assistance to Africa. The targets were fairly specific and time lines measurable. African regional institutions and governments are now working more closely together than before to tackle governance, regional integration, peace, and security issues in the continent. Civil society organizations and professional associations are finding their voices in national and continental development discourse and actions.

This is not the time for development assistance to Africa to slow down or become inconsistent. African policy makers and stakeholders will benefit from predictable development flows from Group of 8 nations between now and 2010. The continent should not be subjected to frontloading of development assistance as 2010 approaches.

As the leaders deliberate in Heiligendamm and confer with invited African leaders, it is important to keep the following issues in perspective:

The need for accelerated development in Africa is a matter of life and death for millions of Africans. The leaders of the Group of 8 now have the historic opportunity to begin redeeming their commitments made to Africa two years ago.

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