General News Mon, 16 May 2005

South Africa Advocates Aid Transparency Initiative

From Gideon Sackitey

Abuja, May 16, GNA - South Africa's Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel has advocated an Aid Transparency Initiative focused on monitoring aid flow and how the aid is managed on the African continent.

Contributing to a discussion at the 38th Conference of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development currently underway in Abuja, Nigeria, Mr Manuel said it was important that the huge volumes of aid that flowed into Africa were adequately monitored and tracked, "our national economies could respond positively to the demands of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) if these steps among other things are adhered to." He welcomed the support of Sweden to help return monies stashed in European banks and asked other members of the OECD states to support Africa to repatriate the billions of dollars stashed in their banks by corrupt leaders on the continent.

The conference has about 35 Finance, Planning and Development Ministers and Governors of central banks attending and is a prelude to the African Development Bank Annual Meetings scheduled to start on May 18. Mr Manuel was optimistic that more funds were flowing out of Africa than she received, a situation he described as unacceptable, considering the fact that African economies had to undergo tremendous recovery programmes to access funds from international finance institutions.

The SA Finance Minister said it was important for Africa to make a significant impact towards the achievement of the MDG's and retrieving lost money that was reported to run into billions of dollars would be a good reprieve. "What I will recommends is that these funds are channelled into the urgently needed infrastructure that is required for the upliftment of our people." In order to obtain these targets and objectives, Mr Manuel suggested the deepening of partnership between African leaders and their people within the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), increased lobbying for OECD country support and a strong alliance to make poverty to become history. Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on African Affairs, called the Report "Africa friendly" as it takes into effect the direction of NEPAD to achieve set goals on the continent. He advocated leadership by example as a means of galvanising international support for development in Africa.

Presenting the Secretary-General's comments to the Meeting, Mr Gambari said the Report offered leaders a fresh opportunity to promote among other things accountable governance, adding that it was important for all the 53 states to join the African Peer Review Mechanism to sustain growth and poverty reduction on the continent.

ECA encourages African economies to achieve Millennium Development Goals

Abuja, May 16, GNA - The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has calculated a further investment of 75 billion dollars per annum towards the achievement of a 7 per cent growth in African economies if they are to meet the development challenges of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) in 2015. The projection is in line with the Millennium Development Project's estimates of increased aid in real terms above 2004 levels of just under 25 billion dollars to 37 billion dollars.

The Commission made the point at the start of its annual Conference of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Ministers in Abuja, Nigeria. It restated the call for a renewed commitment by African leaders to achieve the MDG's and reducing poverty on the continent.

The conference under the theme: "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa", has more than 20 Finance Ministers and five central bank governors attending with more expected to attend before it draws to a close on Monday May 16, 2005.

Welcoming the participants, Dr Kingsley Y. Amoako, ECA Executive Secretary, however, hailed the impact of previous meetings adding that their positions on progress towards the achievement of the MDG's were urgently needed ahead of the September Millennium Summit in New York.

He asked them to piece ideas together and work quickly at agreeing on the urgent actions needed to wipe out poverty on the continent saying "Africa is lagging far behind in global efforts to meet the MDG's by 2015."

Although most of the world's regions have made at least some progress towards meeting some or all of the goals, sub-Saharan Africa has seen poverty rise and life expectancy decline in the five years since the Goals were declared in 2000. Dr Amoako on behalf of the ECA argued that it was important to see action at the highest levels from influential actors to build momentum for change in Africa.

"We need to see significant progress from leading developed countries towards meeting their existing Overseas Development Assistance commitments, as well as helping to accelerate progress by concretely contributing to Africa's MDG financing needs.

Dr Amoako called for a tracking system to make the decisions credible and useful.

He said while it was not yet guaranteed that the necessary increase in resources for the big push would come soon, it was encouraging to note that the downward trend in ODA had been halted and that there was widespread discussion on the best modalities for providing more resources to finance the development agenda in Africa.

"Therefore it is vital that for our part, we prepare and cause the necessary changes to enable us to handle the more increase in resources that we need and expect," Dr Amoako stressed.

Mr Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the African Union, urged the meeting to review the achievement of the MDG's in Africa while contributing to the development of the African Common Position on the review of the MDG's, as mandated by the Heads of State and Governments. "The importance of Africa having a common position on this review and speaking with one voice during the September 2005 UN Conference needs not be overemphasized," Mr Mkwezalamba said adding that," it would be critical that recommendations made fed into the development of the African Common Position. The Nigerian Senate President, Ken Nnamani said the need for the MDG's was a "sad reminder of the disastrous consequences of the economic development programmes of the past." 16 May 05

Source: GNA