Optimism brewing in Africa, Graham Mackay

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Africa World Economic Forum starts today amid high hopes for the continent. This year is being hailed as a significant one for Africa with the New Partnership for Africa?s Development (Nepad) and the Commission for Africa having succeeded in making Africa a central item on the Group of Eight (G-8) agenda.

It is easy to be cynical about the prospect of another conference addressing Africa?s challenges. But such cynicism is misplaced for several reasons.

First, the forum has a tangible purpose: to deliver a clear set of messages and actions to the G-8 summit next month, where Africa will be a key issue on the agenda. Discussion will focus and build on the recommendations for economic growth contained in the Commission for Africa report.

En route it will cover topics such as Africa?s capacity to absorb increased aid, unfair trade tariffs, bribery and corruption, negative perceptions of Africa, the effect of HIV/AIDS, the role of the private sector, and progress towards achieving the millennium development goals.

Importantly, the forum ? and the commission before it ? are not trying to redefine problems already well understood. Rather, they are trying to build momentum behind promising initiatives from the African Union and Nepad.

Second, this year presents a rare focus of international attention on the challenges of Africa. This is a valuable opportunity and we must grasp it. The ambitious G-8 agenda for Africa, led by the UK, could become a defining moment in African development which deserves wholehearted support from African and international businesses.
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Source: Business Day