* G8 set to approve a $15 billion agriculture programme
* Poor nations want past promises honoured
* African leaders welcome focus on farming
(Updates with Senegal president)
By Randall Palmer and Paolo Biondi
L‘AQUILA, Italy, July 10 (Reuters) - Africa took centre stage at the Group of Eight summit on Friday, with wealthy nations eager to reassure critics they will honour past aid pledges and approve a new $15 billion agriculture programme.
After two days of talks focused on the economic crisis, trade and global warming, the final day of the G8 gathering in Italy looked at the problems facing the poorest nations.
Development of Africa has become an important item on G8 agendas following promises by world leaders at Gleneagles in 2005 to increase annual aid levels by $50 billion by 2010, half of which was meant to go to African countries.
However, aid organisations say some capitals have gone back on their word, especially this year’s G8 host Italy, and African heads of state said they would voice their concerns.
"The key message for us is to ask the G8 to live up to their commitments," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Reuters this week before flying to Italy for the half-day meeting.
The l‘Aquila summit has produced chequered results, making only limited progress in crucial climate talks following the refusal by major developing nations to sign up to the goal of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"There is a bit of frustration because one would like to convince everyone about everything and obtain all the results straight way, but things are progressing," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters late on Thursday.
FARM AID, CODE OF ETHICS
Besides Meles, the leaders of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa joined their G8 counterparts on Friday to discuss food security and farming, and to push their demand for compensation for the ravages of climate change.
Rich nations were expected to use the meeting to announce spending of $15 billion over three years to boost agricultural investment in poorer countries.
It was not clear if it was all new funds or what individual countries would contribute, though the United States, Japan and the European Union were expected to give around $3 billion each.
The focus on agricultural investments reflects a U.S.-led shift away from emergency aid assistance towards longer-term strategies to try to make communities more self-sufficient.
Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade told Reuters that Barack Obama -- who will make his first visit to Africa as U.S. president after the G8 summit -- brought a welcome new focus on strengthening African farming.
Wade, who has championed efforts to increase agriculture in his West African country, which relies heavily on food imports, said Obama "really has the will to focus on food in Africa".
"The United States produces maize and some crops and sends it to people in famine, but the new conception is to produce these crops in Africa and not in the United States," Wade said.
But the $15 billion fund over three years compares unfavourably with $13.4 billion which the G8 says it disbursed between January 2008 and July 2009 for global food security.
British charity ActionAid has warned that one billion people went hungry in the world, saying decisions at the G8 summt could "literally make the difference between life and death for millions in the developing world".
Japan and the European Union were championing a code of conduct for responsible investment in the face of growing farmland acquisition or "land grabs" in emerging nations.
The summit wraps up at lunch-time and will be followed by a flurry of bilateral meetings that stretch long into the day.
Obama holds a meeting later on Friday with Pope Benedict, who this week called for a re-think of the world economy. For more on the summit, click [G7/G8] (Additional reporting by Matthew Tostevin; Writing by Crispian Balmer and Stephen Brown; editing by Ralph Boulton)