A couple of weeks ago, another event hit world news, the G8 summit held in Japan, amid much expectations that the leaders of the eight most powerful rich nations would deliver for Africa.
Among other things the most industrialized nations endorsed a commitment to halve global carbon emissions by 2050 to address the issue of climate change.
On soaring food prices the G8 promised to reverse the decline in aid to agriculture in support of the UN’s plans to tackle the crisis.
It also pledged to ensure that bio-fuels would be produced in a way that would be compatible with food security and to accelerate the development of second-generation bio-fuels.
On Africa and development aid, the G8 promised to provide $50bn in new assistance, half going to Africa, by 2010.
Upon reflection the G8 summit recommendations; particularly on the increment of Aid to Africa, this joint communiqué is received with skeptism since it is not the first time the G8 are pledging more Aid to Africa.
Not after failing to deliver on the aid promised in Scotland, three years into the five year aid programme. Activists have accused some G-8 countries, particularly France, Canada and Italy, of skimping on aid to Africa, urging them to ramp up their contributions.
According to Oxfam, a non –governmental organization working on poverty eradication, the G8 nations have delivered only 14 percent of the promised aid; given the current trend, are expected to fall $30 billion short of the promised aid by 2010.
And this could cost as many as five million lives, most of them among the 30,000 children who die each day from causes related to extreme poverty; the agency has noted.
“Though the G8 communiqué reaffirms the Gleneagles commitment made three years ago, it offers no details on who will do what to reverse the steady decline in aid since 2006,” said Oxfam.
“The G8 leaders’ clumsy attempt to backtrack on their aid promises has backfired. With two years to go to the 2010 deadline, G8 leaders now have to deliver the $50 billion in new assistance they pledged at Gleneagles. The world takes these promises seriously even if the G8 leaders do not.” said Max Lawson, Oxfam International chief policy adviser.
The G8 originated in the wake of the energy crisis and the economic crisis in the 1970s.
Britain, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, the United States and West Germany formed the Group of Seven, the predecessor of the G8, to deal with economic problems faced by the world.
Since the end of the Cold War, the G7 has expanded to the G8 with full membership for Russia and a united Germany taking the place of West Germany.
Its agenda covers political as well as economic issues, giving the group the charisma of an all-round fixer of the world’s problems.
Speaking at the summit, American President George Bush, emphasized the urgency of providing aid for Africa, calling on wealthy nations to provide mosquito nets and other aid to prevent children from “needlessly dying from mosquito bites.
“Now is the time for the comfortable nations to step up and do something about it.” Bush said.
Why should the G8 expect Africa to take the recommendations, particularly about aid for Africa seriously when little has been delivered?
Apparently, African aid just like in the recent concluded summit in Japan was the center-piece of the G-8 summit three years ago in Gleneagles, where leaders pledged to increase foreign aid by $50 billion a year by 2010 with half of that going directly to Africa and to cancel the debt of the most heavily indebted poor nations.
Surprisingly collectively, the G-8 has delivered just $3 billion of the $25 billion in additional aid pledged to Africa in 2005, according to DATA (Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa), a group founded by U2 singer Bono and music producer Bob Geldof, both of whom are active campaigners for Africa.
And according to DATA, Germany, the U.S. and Britain were following through on their Aid commitments, while progress from Japan, France, Italy and Canada was slow and weak.
“The poor of Africa will find little solace in the G8’s evasion tactics. Only when they come through with the $25 billion for Africa will we have cause to celebrate. The money is a pittance for the G8, but for poor Africans it could mean a future with life-saving medicines and the chance to learn to read and write,” said Charles Abani, Southern Africa Regional Director for Oxfam International reacting to the joint communiqué issued by Oxfam International in response to the G8 summit recommendations.
One wonders why the summit should be talking about more Aid for Africa if there is no pressure to fulfill the pledges on member states.
If the G8 can collectively decide to increase Aid to Africa, then the onus to fulfill the commitments definitely lies on all the G8 members.
It is not enough to continue making strong recommendations particularly regarding financial assistance for Africa that will remain on paper.
For instance the Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama was reported to have responded, “I don’t understand the criticism,” he said.
“The G-8 leaders are very aware of the commitments they have made to African leaders.”
Perhaps what the Japanese spokesman should be reminded is the fact that it is one thing to be “aware” and another to “be aware and respond positively.” It is not enough to be aware without practically demonstrating commitment to fulfill their pledges.
It is useless to continue increasing Aid for Africa: without fulfilling the pledges and monitoring progress. The G8 should demonstrate their commitment by honouring their pledges. This will help Africa out of poverty and fight diseases like Malaria and HIV/AIDS besieging the continent.
Aid will also help Africa to meet their development goals to create a stable a world economy. And not only should the G8 give more aid; but also put in place mechanisms to monitor progress vis-à-vis the aid given.
Conversely like President Kagame has repeatedly said, African economies must strive to be independent and self reliant. Foreign aid should not be seen by African government as an end itself but rather a means.
And of course the onus is still on African governments to make sure that even the little that is given is effectively used to meet the needs of the people. Who knows?
In the near future, the talk about Aid for Africa may be something of the past. Besides Aid is not an absolute solution to Africa’s problems.