TICAD organisers decry international bias against Africa

  Tokyo- Japan (PANA) -- On the eve of the 3rd Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD III) opening here Monday, a panel of the organisers has warned it was about time Africa realised it would have to count on its own resolve and resources to face the challenges of globalisation.
"We tend to blame others for our woes.
We must face our conflicts and take full responsibility for our development," urged former Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob, who was part of a seven- strong panel mobilised Saturday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to brief journalists ahead of TICAD III.
"Only Africans can do something for Africa" Geingob, now executive secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA) stressed, insisting "we must take our responsibility to bring about change on the continent.
" The Tokyo meeting -- the third since the inception of TICAD in 1993 -- is co-organised by the Japanese government, the UNDP, GCA and the World Bank, which were all represented at the briefing.
The panel was unequivocal about the need, as Geingob put it, for African leaders attending TICAD III to convince pessimists "as to how conducive was the investment climate in Africa.
" While admitting that political instability scared investors, and that States must ensure the requisite infrastructure for investment to flourish in Africa, the former Namibian Prime Minister and several other panellists charged nonetheless that the international order was becoming increasingly biased against Africa.
"America urges free trade but how can anyone trade without something to sell?" Geingob shot back, bemoaning international neglect at a time when embattled African economies need the kind of assistance post-war Germany received under the Marshal Plan and, even recently, the tremendous international mobilisation afoot to resuscitate battered Iraq.
Similarly, UNDP communications director Djibril Diallo who co- ordinated the press briefing, cited an Oxfam report highlighting the despatch with which the international community responded to appeals for aid to Iraq, as opposed to near nonchalance towards the plight of Liberians groaning under weight of a protracted civil war.
"Oxfam noted that just three months after an appeal was launched, two billion dollars was raised for assistance to Iraq.
In a similar distress call, not up to a third of the required assistance was raised for Liberia," Diallo lamented.
Fellow panellists saw in such disparities, an eye-opener for Africa to begin nurturing a sense of self-reliance rather than looking up to the international community.
"Africa does not get the kind of international response generated elsewhere," Diallo observed, noting for instance that international assistance to needy Iraqis averaged 74 dollars per head, compared to 17 dollars for their counterparts in war-ravaged DR Congo.
Noting the mobilisation of huge resources in the fight against international terrorism, and this, to the neglect of humanitarian and economic issues of no less significance and urgency, Diallo warned of a potential boomerang in which marginalised peoples would only resort to the very terrorism that was diverting attention from their problems.
Notwithstanding the continent's frustrations, panellists were by and large positive about changes that augur well for Africa's development, particularly on the political front.
"Africans are coming here (Tokyo) to showcase their potential and to change their negative image," Geingob pointed out, contending that democratisation was beginning to take root in the continent.
"Now, unlike in the past, we hear of 'former' president and 'former' Prime Minister," Geingob remarked to the amusement of the audience, as he was himself a case in point.
"This is indicative of a positive change that now enables power shifts," he intimated.
   On the economic plane, Diallo observed promising trends in which some African economies posted growth rates of up to 8 percent in the late 1990s.
He also cited progress towards regional integration, but warned that such positive trends risked being compromised by the scourge of HIV/AIDS, continued denial of market access for African exports, and overemphasis on international terrorism at the expense of pressing human tragedies in developing countries.
Meanwhile, African heads of State and government begin checking in Sunday for TICAD III, which has the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) topmost on its agenda.
As many as 25 leaders are expected here for the three-day event, key among them African Union chairman Joachim Chissano of Mozambique and NEPAD scribes Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.
The trio is travelling to Tokyo to market their development blueprint for the first time at the Asia-Africa meeting billed for 29 September to 1 October in the Japanese capital.

28 septembre 2003 10:36:00




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