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Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

African business, agriculture disappointed with G8

afrol News, 12 July - As last week's results from the G8 summit are analysed, Africa's different economic sectors agree that some progress has been made. More aid and debt released were positive steps. However, they hold, the most important hinder for African development - access to Western markets for African products - had not yet been seriously treated by the world's leading powers.

Bamanga Tukur, President of the African Business Roundtable, struggles to hide his disappointment with the G8 summit in Gleneagles as he feels obliged to seem grateful for the handouts from the rich. Increasing aid to Africa by US$ 25 billion by 2010 and cancelling much of the continent's debt of course was welcomed by Dr Tukur, one of Africa's foremost private sector leaders.

Sustainable development on the continent, he however warned, "would be seriously hindered without urgent trade reform." The positive focus on Africa at Gleneagles was a "historic opportunity" that risked "being squandered. Without more commitment to free trade from the G8 and industrialised nations, Africans will continue to be denied the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty," Dr Tukur emphasised.

Also the New Partnership for Africa's Development's (NEPAD's) agriculture advisor, Professor Richard Mkandawire, found it difficult to be truly enthusiastic about the increased aid to raise agricultural productivity in Africa.

Mr Mkandawire leads a NEPAD programme that aims at doubling Africa's agricultural production within a few years - food production being the economic sector where Africa has the greatest possibilities of being competitive on the world market, creating jobs through trade and fighting poverty. The NEPAD advisor was given extra funds for his programme by the G8 leaders - but not market access for the resulting agricultural production.

The greatest trade barrier for African agricultural products are the enormous subsidies given by G8 and other rich countries to farm products produced in their countries. One of the issues in Gleneagles had been defining a timetable for the scrapping of agricultural subsidies in rich countries. The attempt nearly had succeeded, but the final resolution only said the countries would remove the subsidies "by a credible end date", without setting the date.

Disappointed by these weak pledges, Professor Mkandawire nevertheless was encouraged that developed countries finally had shown a will to review the issue of agricultural subsidies. "Although no date was set to remove these, it will be to the benefit of the African agricultural trade if this would be sooner rather than later," the NEPAD advisor said.

Africa's next chance to have these damaging subsidies reviewed is at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December. Here, the G8 leaders again have promised to attempt to define a timetable to scrap the subsidies. African leaders are to participate in large numbers at the meeting and plan to lobby for fairer trade standards.

The African Business Roundtable says it is now "now keenly awaiting" the WTO meeting in Hong Kong. There, African business leaders hope, the WTO's Doha round - which is defining new guidelines for the globalised trade - may find its successful completion, including a greater market access for African producers. The World Bank estimates that successful completion of these negotiations could lift 140 million people out of poverty globally - without any aid handouts given.

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