'Rich nations cut Africa aid'
Despite promises to dramatically boost aid, rich nations have cut contributions to Africa and ignored vows to improve trade conditions for the continent, according to a study released on Tuesday.
African Monitor, an independent group formed in 2005 to track pledges made by the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries after what was dubbed "the Year of Africa", said real aid inflows began to decline as early as 2006.
"Donors who have promised to double aid to the continent are largely not fulfilling that promise. In 2007 and 2008 aid is expected to drop even further," Cape Town Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, who founded African Monitor, told a Johannesburg news conference.
"Promises have been made to Africa. The time to act is no," he added.
The report comes as G8 countries vow again to put Africa on the agenda at their annual summit in Germany next month, and as British Prime Minister Tony Blair began an Africa farewell tour.
At the G8's 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, Blair announced a commitment from world leaders to double development aid to Africa by 2010 as well as to boost African access to markets, particularly in agriculture.
Ndungane said a detailed study showed the rich nations' promises had turned out to be hollow.
Excluding debt relief -- a growing category of Western help for Africa -- official development assistance to Africa from 22 rich Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries fell from $106 billion in 2005 to $103 billion in 2006, a 5.1 per cent drop, the study said.
It added that OECD aid money fell to an average 0.3 per cent of gross national income (GNI) in 2006 from 0.33 per cent in 2005, despite a G8 promise to increase development assistance budgets to 0.7 per cent of each country's (GNI) by 2015.
The African Monitor report said 55 per cent of overall aid to Africa went to just 10 countries -- "donor darlings" that often have strategic rather than humanitarian claims to Western help.
Nigeria, a key source of oil for many rich economies and the continent's primary beneficiary of debt relief efforts, received 18 per cent of aid to Africa in 2005, while other top recipients included Ethiopia, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lesotho, one of Africa's poorest nations and gripped by one of the world's worst AIDS pandemics, was among the countries receiving the least aid assistance, the report said.
"If vulnerability is not a dominant criteria for choosing (aid) beneficiaries, it is worthwhile to consider what motivates donors to select a particular country," it said.
Moreblessings Chidaushe of AFRODAD, a non-governmental group that looks at African debt issues, said slow progress in the flow of aid showed Africa could not wait for handouts from rich nations.
"Africa needs to start working on an exit strategy," she said. "Aid will not take Africa out of this quagmire."
The African Monitor study indicated that, despite steady growth in oil and other African exports, the continent struggled for access to rich markets, particularly for agricultural goods that have a more direct impact on the lives of most Africans.
Ndungane said the G8 should focus on reviving the Doha round of global free trade talks, saying Africa's farmers still face crippling export barriers and unfair competition from subsidized Western producers.
"If the G8 countries are serious, they should drop subsidies, drop tariffs and create market access for Africa," he said.