L’AQUILA, Italy (Reuters) - Africa takes center stage at the Group of Eight summit on Friday, with wealthy nations eager to reassure critics they will honor past aid pledges and approve a new $15 billion agriculture program.
After two days of talks focused on the economic crisis, trade and global warming, the final day of the G8 gathering in Italy will concentrate on the problems facing the world’s 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 organizations 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 on Thursday night.
Besides Meles, the leaders of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa will discuss food security and farming with their G8 counterparts on Friday, and push their demand for compensation for the ravages of climate change.
Rich nations are expected to use the meeting to announce spending of $15 billion over three years to boost agricultural investment in poorer countries, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The text did not make clear whether it was all new funds, nor did it give details of individual countries’ contributions, although the United States, Japan and the European Union are expected to step in with around $3 billion each.
The focus on agricultural investments reflects a U.S.-led shift away from emergency aid assistance toward longer-term strategies to try to make communities more self-sufficient.
But the $15 billion fund over three years compares unfavorably with $13.4 billion which the G8 says it disbursed between January 2008 and July 2009 for global food security.
British charity ActionAid warned in a report last week that one billion people went hungry in the world, saying decisions at the G8 gathering could “literally make the difference between life and death for millions in the developing world.”
Japan and the European Union will also champion a code of conduct to promote responsible international investments in agriculture 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.
U.S. President Barack Obama will return to Rome for a meeting with Pope Benedict, who earlier this week called for a re-think of the way the world economy was run.
Writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Michael Roddy