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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Africa donors failing with financing: Sachs
By JUN HONGO
The main quandary in aiding Africa is not the absence of initiatives or technology, but the "lack of adequate financing" by donor countries that fail to follow through on their commitments, U.N. adviser and economist Jeffrey Sachs said Tuesday.
At a news briefing in Tokyo, Sachs, a special adviser to the secretary general of the United Nations, said developed countries at the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 promised to double aid to Africa by 2010.
But the chairman of the OECD's development assistance panel said in Tokyo last month that while sub-Saharan aid is increasing faster than total aid, it's not climbing fast enough to double by 2010.
Sachs urged summit members to fulfill their pledges swiftly and said there was little they could say in excuse.
Many of the members are in a budget squeeze, "but they can't say it's a little inconvenient for (them), because they are talking to the poorest people in the world who don't have enough to eat," he said.
Sachs, who is also director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, is in Japan to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama.
The prominent economist said that as host of TICAD and July's G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan is at the center of a variety of issues on the global agenda, including African aid, climate change and the global food crisis.
While emphasizing that Africa is in need of a new global financing mechanism devoted to its poorest farmers, Sachs said China's presence has grown rapidly there because of its aggressive aid.
"China is very active in Africa, all over Africa," he said.
Differing from criticism that China's opaque assistance is being taken advantage of by nondemocratic governments that abuse human rights, Sachs called its aid to the continent "quite positive" in terms of size.
"One estimate now is that China has put in several billion dollars a year in investment" for Africa's infrastructure, Sachs said, describing the contributions as "very real."
China may have ulterior motives for connecting with Africa and its wealth of natural resources, but that is the nature of trade and the economy, he added.
The U.N. adviser said China is being pragmatic by not dealing with political conditions and focusing on commercial ties instead.
However, those who are critical of such tactics should be creating their own initiatives for true economic development, especially in areas like conflict-torn Darfur, he said.
In regard to Japan's contributions, Sachs expressed hope that the government will announce a significant increase in its commitment to Africa during TICAD and that it will ensure technological assistance to set up basic infrastructure and secure private-sector investment.
"Expanding the reach of this kind of effort to Africa makes sense to Japan," he said.