G8 leaders under pressure to honour promises to Africa

The leaders of the G8 on Saturday came under pressure to honour their promises to the world’s poorest countries as Africa took centre stage at the final session of the three-day summit.

After two days spent discussing the global slump, the stalled trade deal and climate change, the presidents and prime ministers of the Group of Eight richest nations were joined by a group of African leaders to discuss Barack Obama’s plan for a $15-billion package of food aid designed to revolutionise agriculture in the least developed nations.

Some aid agencies fear that the G8 will fail to deliver on the food security plan, noting that promises made at the Gleneagles summit four years ago to double foreign aid had not been met.

African leaders said ahead of Saturday’s talks that they would raise their concerns about G8 backsliding. “The key message for us is to ask the G8 to live up to their commitments,” Meles Zenawi, the Ethopian Prime Minister, said before flying to Italy for the half-day meeting.

In recent years, the G8 has invited African leaders to join the summit for talks on development and besides Meles, the leaders of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa were all at the table.

Thousands of anti-globalisation demonstrators were hoping to turn up the heat on the industrialised powers with a protest march on the summit venue in the Italian mountain town of L’Aquila.

The anti-capitalist marchers will also tap into local frustrations about the slow progress of reconstruction since the 6 April earthquake devastated the town, with more than 24 000 people still homeless in the area.

Despite only limited progress at the summit on the key issues of climate change, trade and development, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, urged the G8’s critics to be patient.

“There is a bit of frustration because one would like to convince everyone about everything and obtain all the results straight away, but things are progressing,” Sarkozy said. - guardian.co.uk .

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