Big guns to miss Nepad funding meeting

AFRICAN leaders were due to meet hundreds of global business chiefs in Dakar on Monday in a bid for cash to pay for an ambitious plan to lift the world’s poorest continent out of misery. But some continental heavyweights, who played a key role in putting the programme together, have pulled out at the last minute or are not attending.

Organisers of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) conference said more than 900 delegates had been registered, including officials from about 40 countries, some 20 heads of state or government and about 500 representatives from the corporate world.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, head of Nepad’s working committee, was due to have opened the summit. He pulled out because Chinese President Jiang Zemin is currently on an official visit to his country.

Gabon’s President Omar Bongo will open the conference instead, organisers said.

Thabo Mbeki of South Africa also said he was not coming, ostensibly because of pressing engagements at home. Neither is Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika, one of the main architects of the Nepad.

According to informed sources, Obasanjo and Mbeki might be miffed with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade for several reasons, including his criticism of recent presidential elections in Zimbabwe, won by Robert Mugabe.

Wade had said he did not “consider the norms of the election democratic.” Only two African countries, Senegal and Ghana, outrightly criticised the polls.

The main objective of the conference, according to organisers, is to “provide the private sector with an opportunity to dialogue with African heads of state and government” to enable investments in a new and transparent strategic partnership.

The key areas for investment are: education, health, infrastructure, energy, the environment and access to developed markets.
African leaders, in turn, have vowed to ensure good governance.

On Sunday, workers were putting last-minute finishing touches at a 1 200-seat auditorium where the opening ceremony will be held. The venue then shifts to a luxury hotel nearby. – AFP

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