African business, politics and lifestyle
What can Africa expect from the G8?
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi agreed to sit down with Reuters on Wednesday only hours before leaving for the G8 summit in Italy. He told us he planned to remind the rich leaders he met there that the economic slowdown and global warming are having a disproportionate effect on Africa. And that the world’s poorest continent did nothing to cause them.
The former rebel represented Africa at this year’s G20 summit of rich nations and is arguing the case on behalf of the continent again today and tomorrow. Continental spokesman seems a roll Meles — who has a passionate interest in economics — is comfortable with. But he told us it was only related to his job as Ethiopian Prime Minister and that he has no desire to take on a pan-African job if and when he retires as leader — something he has recently said he has plans to do.
“The key message for us is to ask the G8 to live up to their commitments,” Meles said, looking relaxed in his Addis Ababa office as he prepared to fly off to Rome. “The promise (from the G20 summit) was that something like $50 billion dollars would be made available to poorer countries. Slightly more than $20 billion of that is on hand. The rest needs to be fulfilled.”
The Ethiopian leader also said Africa’s myriad problems were being compounded by global
warming and it was essential that the continent be compensated by the rich world at
environment talks due for Denmark in December.
“Many institutions have tried to quantify (the amount of compensation) and they have come up with different figures,” Meles said. “The sort of median figure would be in the range of $40 billion a year.”
But some analysts think that figure is very ambitious, especially bearing in mind that only $20 billion of the $50 billion promised at G20 has so far made it into the hands of those to whom it’s been promised.
Meles certainly sounded like he was heading off to the G8 with a full plate of issues and ideas for the world’s richest nations.
The problem is that fewer big initiatives are expected to be agreed in Rome as there were at the G20.
So what’s the best he, and Africa, can really hope for?
Is the developed world to blame for the economic difficulties the world’s poorest are facing? If so, what should it do? And should Africa be compensated for climate change?