Africa: What is the Committee of Ten?

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A low-profile committee of key African finance ministers and bankers, founded in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, may become a vehicle for ensuring Africa's needs are heard in international forums, according to a report by the British think tank, Chatham House. An excerpt from the report explains what the committee does:

The Committee of 10 (C10) was formed in response to the global financial crisis. It held its first meeting in November 2008 and subsequent ones in Dar es Salaam, Abuja and, in February 2010, Cape Town.

Comprising the finance ministers of Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, and the governors of the central banks of Algeria, Botswana, Kenya, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), the C10 is co-hosted by the African Union, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The C10's role is partly to better coordinate continent-wide economic measures to tackle the impact of the financial crisis. But it is also a reflection that in various multilateral forums or regulatory bodies such as the G20 or the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, only South Africa tends to have a formal place because of the size of its economy, but with often a half-expectation that it will represent Africa as a whole too.

The C10 seeks to provide support and input to enable South Africa, or any other African country that may find itself in conversations related to international finance, to act more effectively in the interests of the continent as a whole.

The C10 is still in the early stages of formation and, like the G20, arose as a response to perceived inadequacies of pre-existing structures. Composed as it is of economists and finance ministers, it is not a political gathering as NEPAD was, and it does not have an explicit agenda to secure a 'new deal' for Africa.

It is far less ambitious than NEPAD and has a far lower profile. Yet it does represent a challenge to African political leaders and to the AU in that it is overtly reform-minded and can claim great authority on financial issues.

There are no signs that the C10 wishes to exceed its financial mandate or challenge bodies such as the AU to become the principal representative body for Africa, even on such issues. This is a great strength. There is no guarantee that the C10 will survive or put down roots any more than the G20 will, but it may yet prove to be a quietly effective vehicle for ensuring Africa's needs are heard, even when its individual countries are largely excluded from international discussions.

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