Experts gathered in Dakar, Senegal, have concluded that the international community's financing of African debt relief is an important way of funding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to eliminate extreme poverty by 2015, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said today.
At the close of the two-day meeting on Tuesday, the 70 experts from the ECA, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the United Nations system and regional and country authorities, said, however, that debt relief on its own would be woefully insufficient to allow African countries to finance the MDGs.
Since the 1999 Summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries in Cologne, Germany, at which the Jubilee 2000 Campaign won a commitment to cancel $100 billion of debt for 42 of the world's poorest nations, only eight African countries had reached their completion points under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, the ECA said.
The Dakar meeting acknowledged that the HIPC initiative had helped some countries, but urged the international community to consider offering some debt relief to "semi-HIPC" countries, like Angola and Kenya, as well as oil-exporting Nigeria and Gabon.
The experts cautioned African governments against getting into further debt to achieve development goals.
As co-host, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said, "It is only through the strength of our arguments that we shall overcome Africa's debt. We must fight an intellectual battle to that end."
Signalling the toughness of the battle, ECA Executive Secretary K.Y. Amoako, in his opening speech on Monday, noted that between 1990 and 1999, the number of poor people in Africa increased by over 6 million annually.
"At current trends, Africa will be the only region in the world where the number of poor people in 2015 will be higher than in 1990," he said. "Indeed, in some areas, Africa will not meet the MDGs for many, many years.
"Take the target of achieving universal primary education. At current trends, only seven countries in Africa will meet this goal. In fact, in over a third of our countries, every other child is out of school. The stark fact is that, as things now stand, Africa will not meet the universal primary education target until after 2100."