#Article (Archive)

The G8 Has Failed Africa

Jul 14, 2008, 6:17 AM

To great pomp and self-congratulation we heard from the G8 nations [USA, UK, Japan, Canada, Italy, Russia, France and Germany] in 2005 that commitments had been secured from the assembled heads of state to increase aid and debt relief to some of the world's poorest nations, which includes most sub-Saharan African countries. Many of us at the time thought that this was maybe a new beginning in the way that the wealthy countries of the world treated the poorest. Unfortunately we were wrong, very, very wrong.

Despite the fact that at this year's meeting they pledged 10 billion in food aid several reports published during the last two years show the extent of the financial shortfall. One report is from the organisation established by Bono and Bob Geldof, Debt AIDS Trade Africa, or DATA. The DATA report monitors how the G8 countries are falling short of the commitments it promised to deliver-$25 billion a year in development aid by 2010.

It notes: "Collectively, the G8 are badly off track with their development assistance promise to Africa. In total G8 assistance to sub-Saharan Africa has increased by only $2.3 billion since 2004, when it should have increased by $5.4 billion over that period.... Concern is heightened by the small increases in aid that are in the pipeline for many G8 countries for 2007 and 2008. If G8 does not react quickly to get back on track with the needed scale-ups in assistance, the early successes...will be squandered...."

Yet again the poorest nations of the world have been fed a diet of lies by the worlds wealthiest nations. It is increasingly clear that promises to "make poverty history" are nothing more than hot air.

This point is all too clearly highlighted by a report in the UK published Guardian newspaper last year. It quoted Russian civil servants involved in the G8 negotiations as saying, "We only made those promises [debt and aid relief] because we felt sorry for Tony Blair after the terrorist attacks on 7/7." This was a reference to the bombings of a bus and tube trains in London, which had happened the previous day. Does nobody feel sorry for Africa? Do the G8 leaders not understand the predicament of the world's poorest billion people? Either they don't and are ill-informed to the point of ignorance or they do and they simply do not care.

What the wealthy nations of the world value is money. They care nothing for the plight of their fellow human beings in the world's poorest nations. This is exemplified by the recent global financial crisis. According to Dan Timms, a spokesperson for the campaign group Oxfam, "When you realise that, faced with a financial crisis, rich countries have bailed out their banks to the tune of a trillion dollars, it highlights how comparatively little we are asking leaders to deliver to the developing world to meet the promises they have made."

A fraction of what the worlds richest nations have spent saving their financial institutions would have saved millions of lives in the world's poorest nations and helped us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

We must not depend on the G8 for anything. They have made it perfectly clear what they value and how much they are willing to actually contribute to the development of a more just global society. Accept what they give but take what they say with a very large grain of salt.