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31.05.2007 General News

Bad Governance, Unfulfilled Pledges Affect Africa

ACTIONAID, an international anti-poverty agency, has warned that poor governance in Africa and failure of donors and rich countries to honour pledges and promises to African countries may hinder economic growth on the continent.

“Africa may not be able to achieve Millennium Development Goals within the next 50 years unless governments increase transparency in the use of public funds and rich countries take steps to fulfil and co-ordinate their aid promises and promote just trade regimes,” the organisation said in a communiqué.

The communiqué, which was released ahead of Africa's Finance Ministers Conference, scheduled to take place in Accra from May 30-31 2007, said although economic growth on the continent had been commendable over the last decade, it had not been as vigorous as expected.

It quoted ActionAid's African Policy Manager, Brian Kagoro, as stating that it was a travesty of justice that debt relief was still counted as new aid when most countries had finished paying the capital sums lent them and had been forced to repay $4 for every dollar they had originally borrowed.

The communiqué noted that aid to sub-Saharan Africa had stalled at $23 billion despite the G8 commitment to double aid to Africa to $50 billion by 2010.

“By 2006 only five of the major donor countries had met their target of giving 0.7 per cent of their gross national income as aid to developing countries,” it said.

It called on international donors to guarantee recipient governments fiscal autonomy and advance new aid as grant to avoid worsening Africa's debt burden.

It noted that while aid was not the only answer to Africa's economic woes, it could be used to bolster investments in infrastructure, energy and social sectors.

However, heavily tied donor aid had been used to circumvent and at times subvert national priorities and needs.

The communiqué said only five donor countries, namely, Finland, Ireland, Luxemburg, Norway and the UK had untied their aid, adding that most conditions imposed by international donors were not in tandem with national priorities and needs. “This undermines the long-term development prospects for Africa,” it stated.

The communiqué said there was the need for African governments to take deliberate steps to ensure that citizens had a right and access to public information to strengthen transparency and accountability, as well as improve efficiency in the use of public resources.

It said African leaders had been able to meet only few of the commitments made by African finance ministers at their meeting in Abuja in 2006.

“The finance ministers committed to make information available to promote accountability and enable independent monitoring of progress, but most existing laws in the majority of countries restrict citizens from accessing public information, and governments exercise undue control over media,” it noted.

It urged national governments to institutionalise independent monitoring of government and donor financial and other transactions to make real their commitments to good governance.

It also called for the abolishment of user fees in health and education services and the allocation of more resources to promote public health care and citizens right to education.