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General News Thu, 10 Jun 2004

African leaders seen as beggars - Mbeki

President Thabo Mbeki lamented in an editorial published on Thursday ahead of a meeting with G8 leaders in the United States the perception among rich countries of African leaders as beggars.

"When six African leaders participate in the Group of Eight summit now under way on Sea Island, Georgia... we can expect to be portrayed in some quarters as mendicants," said Mbeki in the opinion piece published in ThisDay newspaper.

"Poor relations crashing the party"

While welcoming the rich club's decision to invite African leaders to their annual meeting for a fifth consecutive year, Mbeki asserted that "we will still be poor relations crashing the party."

Mbeki, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Ghana's John Kufuor, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Yuweri Museveni of Uganda and Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade are to join in the G8 talks in Georgia later on Thursday.

Debt relief, the crisis in Zimbabwe, trade barriers on African goods and the Aids pandemic are expected to dominate the talks.

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Objects of compassion and contempt

"Africans will be objects of compassion and contempt until such time as we have become demonstrable masters of our own destiny," wrote Mbeki.

The president and an architect of Africa's first homegrown plan for economic recovery, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), argued that African governments should not rely on outside help.

"We must set our own priorities"

"We must be able to set our own priorities, based on our own realities, experience and needs, rather than those of foreign donors and the organisations through which they channel funds," he wrote.

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The G8 talks with African leaders comes at a time of pessimism in Africa over its economic future, in particular over the continent's failure to lift itself out of poverty.

A report released last week at the World Economic Forum in Africa held in Mozambique described Africa's poor economic performance as "the worst 20th century tragedy" after decolonisation.

Per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa is now 200 dollars lower than in 1974, a decline of 11 percent over a period when the economies in the rest of the world were growing at an annual average rate of two percent.

Source: AFP