27 March 2009

Africa: Annan Sounds Alarm on Global Economic Crisis

Cape Town — A high-level panel of African leaders and development experts headed by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a call Friday for reforms of global governance structures to help Africa weather the international financial crisis.

In a publication timed to influence next week's critical summit of leaders of the G20 nations in London, Annan says that while wealthier nations can raise trillions of dollars at short notice to bail themselves out of the crisis, poor countries find themselves unable to borrow money or even to get a seat at the tables around which the crisis is being discussed.

In Africa, Annan adds, "many countries are experiencing reduced trade and economic activity, withdrawal of investors and an acute scarcity of credit. Projects are being postponed or cancelled altogether. Financial inflows are dropping, including levels of international assistance and remittances."

As a result, African governments and people are hindered in their ability to provide basic services and to develop their countries. "The human, social and political consequences could be enormous."

Annan makes these points in a special publication produced by the "Africa Progress Panel," a review group which monitors whether the world's leaders are meeting their commitments to Africa. The panel, which Annan heads, also includes former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mozambican activist Graça Machel, Botswana's central banker, Linah Kelebogile Mohohlo, and former Ivorien minister and business leader Tidjane Thiam.

Annan calls in his contribution – published as an AllAfrica guest column today – for major reforms of global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to make them more responsive to Africa's interests.

"Until all parts of the world are included in critical deliberations, including on trade and climate change," he says, "these institutions lack the reach and legitimacy they need to provide truly global answers to today's challenges and the inclusiveness to make the most of tomorrow's opportunities."

Among the proposals he and other contributors to the publication advocate:

  • The African Union should be included in the G20 meeting of the world's biggest economies (which currently numbers only South Africa among its members); and
  • The world community needs to boost resources available to developing countries, ease access to credit and lessen the conditions attached to aid.

Along with other African contributors, Annan calls for the continent's leaders to play their part too.

"If they are to profit from the new multilateralism outlined by the contributors," writes Annan, "the continent's states must heed their commitments regarding governance, accountability and transparency and find ways to act in a more coordinated and concerted fashion."

Read Kofi Annan's guest column

Scroll down for links to other contributors' articles

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