African Union holds G8 to account

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[ACCRA] The African Union has called for the establishment of an independent body to ensure that pledges to Africa made by members of the G8 countries are honoured on time.

Chairman of the African Union and president of Ghana, John Kufuor, said this week (11 June) in Accra, Ghana that an independent committee will help check that the G8 delivers on its promises in a timely and well-planned manner.

The president was receiving a delegation from the nongovernmental organization Africa Progress Panel, chaired by the former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan.

Kufuor considers this necessary because implementation of previous pledges made by the G8 to Africa has often been delayed or incomplete.

For example, the G8 indicated at the 2005 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland that they would provide US$50 million in aid for Africa by 2010 (see African science must grasp its window of opportunity), but so far only US$25 million has been delivered, with only three years to go until the deadline.

Kufuor said that at the recent G8 summit in Germany, the African Union presented their requirements to the G8 and urged the group to revisit the issue of aid for Africa. But the leaders seemed to show more interest in allocating separate funds to tackle HIV/AIDS and other common diseases in Africa such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Africa faces a lot of challenges in the energy, water and education sectors, therefore investment in research and development and in infrastructure is vital at the moment, Kufuor said. He singled out Ghana, which has been facing a massive energy crisis resulting in a power shortage throughout the past year.

Kofi Annan said that an independent body would also ensure that African countries honour and implement their side of commitments made to the G8.

He said partnership between donor countries and developing countries ought to be based on mutual accountability.

Annan appealed to the G8 to come up with a timetable for the disbursement of the US$60 million pledged last week in Germany because this will help Africa to execute the projects on time.

Ernest Asare, the director of communication at Ghana’s Energy Foundation, told SciDev.Net that the G8 has tried to help Africa in needy areas but that it is up to individual countries to start investing in science in order to solve problems such as the shortage of energy.

He said that, as in Ghana, scientists should investigate alternative energy sources such as biomass, and that they should raise public awareness through scientific forums about how these problems should be tackled.

In other news, Kofi Annan was appointed (14 June) chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The Kenya-based organisation, established last year and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, aims to help small-scale farmers in Africa increase productivity of their farms.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town yesterday, Annan said he would fight the deterioration of food security and livelihoods in Africa.