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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
G8 summit: Did it do enough for Africa?
To watch coverage of the Talking Point webcast, select the link below:


African leaders have welcomed an action plan promising aid, debt relief, medical help and military intervention from the world's richest nations to the poorest.

A $1bn agreement to lighten the debt burden for the world's poorest countries was included in the plan passed at the G8 summit in Canada.

Though loan repayments will be lowered, aid agencies are disappointed, saying the sum is only equal to 50 days of repayments and would not counterbalance price falls in coffee and cotton.

An offer to work towards spending half or more of the G8's annual new development aid - about $6bn - on African nations that govern justly was also included in the new proposals.

Phil Twyford, Oxfam's international advocacy director, was blunt: "They're offering peanuts to Africa - and repackaged peanuts at that."

Launch new window : An unequal world
In pictures: Global poverty statistics

Is $1bn debt relief enough? What difference can the action plan make? How can poverty in developing countries be tackled?

We discussed the G8 summit in our phone-in programme, Talking Point broadcast on BBC World Service radio and interactive TV, presented by Lyse Doucet.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Free trade is not happening today

Kapali Viswanathan, Brisbane, Australia
Instead of "giving" debt relief, do not hinder trade opportunities for these countries to repay their debt. It is morally and ethically wrong to prevent free trade and to talk about debt relief. Free trade is not happening today. The so-called rich nations are just using the poor ones to become rich.
Kapali Viswanathan, Brisbane, Australia (Indian)

The problem is that most African countries do not have political systems where the government is responsible. There is no point in giving money if the governments of the countries cannot be trusted.
Paul, Toronto, Canada

The hypocrisy of the G8 summit: $1bn dollars equals about $1 per person in Africa.
Mike, Virginia, USA

Won't this "extra" money for Africa be taken back by new rules forbidding the use of cheap generic medicines and the sale of GM crops to large rich farmers producing cash crops for sale in the West?
Chris Q, England

There should be no more fresh lending until their debts have been repaid in full. As for cancelling debt, that sickens me. I don't see my bank letting me off my loans when I can't pay them.
Martin, England

We are not doing the Third World any favours at all

Martin, UK: How do you think we in the West have become so prosperous? By robbing the poor nations. Do you think the Commonwealth was set up to share cultures and foods? No, we robbed them blind. We are not doing the Third World any favours at all. We owe them relief. Shame on us greedy people.

The man in the street has been hearing about problems in Africa for too long now. Every country in Africa has, since gaining independence, gone down the road of economic ruin. Why are African countries unable to produce anything? They can't grow crops. They can't mine the minerals beneath their feet. They can't manufacture goods. They can only consume, while they blame everybody else for their ills. It's time to move on. Africa is a waste of time and money.
Alistair Fall, Wells, UK

I am appalled that we are even contemplating giving countries like Zimbabwe more money, at a time when white Zimbabwean farmers now have around forty days to move out of their own homes. As for cancelling debt, the fact that the governments can even consider such theft is a warning sign of the ominous leftward shift in world politics.
Richard Murray, London, UK

Western banks have provided irresponsible loans to corrupt Third World governments with the intension of making a nice profit. Not surprisingly the loans go bad and the debtor defaults. Instead of the bank having to write the loans off as bad debt and record a loss, the Western taxpayer picks up the tab to ensure the profligate bank gets its money back. And this is considered to be assisting the population of the Third World country that never benefited from the loans in the first place!
Tim, London UK

Does anyone here remember Somalia or Ethiopia? Monies and resources were dumped by the ton into these countries to "stabilise and normalise" life there - to no avail. Food shipments were hijacked and people killed. I remember reading a reporter describing the tribal warfare in Africa, despite all the aid being given. He spoke of many bodies tumbling through the river outside his hotel. My personal take is that until we get someone into the offices less interested in self-aggrandizement and more in his country and its people all the aid the world might send, will ultimately make no difference.
Tim, Baton Rouge, USA

If everyone was given an equal slice of the pie, that would make us all financially worse off

Dwayne Johnson, UK
Our governments know that there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world and enough natural resources to be shared according to demand. But they also know that if everyone was given an equal slice of the pie, that would make us all financially worse off. We would no longer control oil, gold, coal, or diamonds and thus might have to live in a world where no human was left out. Wealth, greed and capitalism have left so many people poor in our country and billions near death around the world. With human progress comes inevitable problems but the problems here are too large to justify the progress.
Dwayne Johnson, UK

I cannot believe people actually think that the West had no part in the state Africa is in now? The West colonised and kept these countries down giving them little opportunity for education or to better themselves. The West exploited these people for hundreds of years so I think the Western countries have a moral responsibility to right the wrong.
Shiv, USA

Should pay for a good few palaces and finance nations that steal land from the only competent farmers they have. The extortion of tax from hardworking British people to make Blair appear like a nice person on the world stage must seem perfectly reasonable to him. Africa has had money thrown at it for decades and it never does any good so it is time to leave it alone to sort itself out. We should stop meddling, they had the chance to be run properly by Western countries but chose to run themselves.
James, London, England

James from London: does the authoritarian rule, exploitation, and gross under-investment in human capital that accompanied colonial rule really amount to countries being "run properly"? Secondly, while Africa has produced a string of corrupt leaders, remember that many of these were installed and kept in power by the Western countries themselves during the Cold War. The initiative discussed at G8 is not about begging - it's an overdue effort by decent African leaders to lift their people out of poverty through a business partnership with the West. It is an attempt to relieve decades of economic marginalisation and to break through lingering cultural bigotry, of the type which you have suitably displayed.
Ryan Short, South Africa

To James from London - you say that Africa 'had its chance to be run properly by Western countries' - does this include inflicting more than 40 years of apartheid on people of colour (like myself) for no other reason other than greed and hatred? These African countries were colonised and stripped of all their wealth by the West and abandoned in their time of need! It's about time they repay - although nothing can erase the suffering they inflicted on an entire generation...
Anon, South African living in the UK

Presumably when James, London says "we should stop meddling [in African affairs], they had the chance to be run properly by Western countries but chose to run themselves", he also means putting a stop to the flagrant exploitation of African countries by the world's (mostly G8 countries') multinationals. Perhaps if African countries were allowed to grow the crops they require to live on rather than grow cash crops, like tea or coffee, for export; if they were allowed to exploit there own mineral reserves (oil, uranium, gold, diamonds) to be used for the profit of their own countries; if the first world traded with them on a level basis, then there would be no need to provide continuous charity to these nations. Of course the first-world would be a little less rich and the third-world a little less poor and we wouldn't want that would we?
Kevin, Liverpool, UK

Re: Anon. I think that he/she will find that apartheid was inflicted on the SA people by their own government. I have no recollection that Western governments actually encouraged it! As to African countries being abandoned in their time of need I think the truth is that their own revolutionary movements fought and strove one way or another for independence and having got it now, seemingly are unable to cope with it! I know, having been there, that the lot of the ordinary African has not improved since the abandonment of apartheid.
R. Steward, Great Britain

It is genuine progress and marks a turning point on a global scale

Lucky Abu, New Jersey, USA
For the first time in the history of the G8 summit, Africa is finally represented by its own leaders. It is genuine progress and marks a turning point on a global scale. But was there any discussion on how the G8 countries could help Africa recover billions of dollars stolen by previous African leaders and stashed away in Europe? The path to a genuine partnership has been laid, but it cannot be completed until we solve this mystery first.
Lucky Abu, New Jersey, USA

Why is it that the West spends tens of billions on defence against terrorism when poverty kills many times more people?
Chris Haworth, Edinburgh, UK

G8 is all about avarice and greed and is organised for the benefit of the corporate culture that created WorldCom.
David Baynes, Canada

The removal of debt will allow these countries to form relations with us that are mutually beneficial

Michelle, Boston
If the money is used correctly then it will help and combined with Nepad it should be of some benefit to African nations. Not giving anything and sitting idly by would be worse. Also making comparisons between the debts of poor countries and the debts of private individuals in developed countries is ridiculous, selfish and rather stupid. Eventually, the removal of debt will allow these countries to form relations with us that are mutually beneficial. Why can people not see that?
Michelle, Boston (but Irish)

What Africa needs is fair trade. By giving fair prices to our raw materials and allowing pre-processed goods from Africa to have access to the developed world market, poverty in most African countries can be eradicated.
Fred Labi, Welwyn Garden City, England

We, as proud and capable Africans, must not rely on the West to solve our economic problems. We must elect governments and utilise economic policies that will provide permanent solutions to our problems, and enable us to trade as equal partners with the West. If we continue to remain at the mercy of the West when it comes to our survival, we are guaranteed a raw deal at all times.
George Mutua, Kenya

The West overestimate their generosity. The FTSE 100 index represents over 2000 trillion dollars. What is a measly billion dollars for a continent of people? There are some very uncharitable comments that have been made here. I hope the people that make those comments never become unemployed where other people have to assist them. At least they will not have to pay interest on any dole payments.
Douglas, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Is it not sickening when a SINGLE American can create a $4bn fraud and ALL the worlds richest nations together can only offset $1bn of debt to be spread across the world poorest nations?
Merx England, London, UK

This money would be better spent on a once productive country such as Argentina.

Colin, England
The G8 may as well set fire to the money for all the good it will do because nothing will ever change. Countries such as Zimbabwe had an excellent infrastructure 22 years ago. They had booming tourism, elements of mining and an efficient well managed farming infrastructure. This country fed its people with surplus to sell. Now it has joined the ranks of all the other wretched, mismanaged African countries rapidly heading back to the Stone Age. I have heard all the arguments by these charities and do-gooders about careful controls in auditing the aid money. But personally I see absolutely no point in building a new school or hospital only for some civil war or war veteran to burn it down. In my view this money would be better spent on a once productive country such as Argentina.
Colin, England

I wonder if the Government would possibly consider writing off my student loan as well?
Drew, Blackpool, UK

Giving us this aid at times promotes irresponsibility in our countries. The G8 can do more by ensuring that monies stolen by African leaders, past, current or future, are taken back to Africa and are eventually used to repay loans. Why should a country celebrate a loan of US$6m when its president, his children, and friends have more than US $2 billion in off-shore accounts? It's madness. And this madness is being promoted by the lenders or debt-forgivers. First, let these people bring back what they have stolen, then give us aid if there will be a shortfall.
Chileshe, Lusaka, Zambia

A billion dollars may sound like a lot of money. But the developed world spends 300 billion dollars each year supporting it's agricultural industry. This prevents the third world from competing in the market. One billion is chicken feed.
Col, UK Ex-pat

Will it do anything long term?

Clive, Kenya
It's interesting to note that debt relief as a concept originated in the developed world and not in the 3rd world. Yet another idea foisted on the developing world by the developed? It sounds good, has the 'feel good' factor but will it do anything long term? That some African leaders have embraced it is no different from them embracing the conditions for any other aid package. Drowning people will clutch any flotation device however jagged the edges may be.
Clive, Kenya (ex-UK)

How would the progress of NEPAD be monitored so as to ensure that the resources generated are geared towards viable projects which benefit those who need who are the most in need? It's good to finance development but it is essential that unlike what happened in the past this assistance is properly and utilised for the benefit of the continent as a whole and individual countries in particular.
Jerome Ateba, Cameroon

If the western world, in particular the US, reduced the exorbitant trade tariffs and subsidies to its own industries, the Third World would not need as much aid and more importantly would move towards self-sufficiency in a competitive market place.
Humaira Mahmud, London, UK

These meetings do serve a purpose as did those of the Mafia dons who met in upstate New York years ago to enhance control of their victims. I do not foresee any threat to this group which now controls this planet to furthering their control telling us who works at what wages; how much the farmers get for their crops; to enact strategy ensuring that those in control are not restricted nor impeded from unlimited profits or earnings.
Stephen B, USA

The Western world has a moral responsibility to reduce poverty

Vijay K Vijayaratnam, United Kingdom
The Western world has a moral responsibility to reduce poverty in the Third World, particularly in Africa. It is heartening to see the UK Government is taking initiative in this aspect of poverty reduction. I would also like to see money not handed to leaders who misuse aid but spent on water, sanitation, agriculture, education, public health including reducing of Aids in Africa.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, United Kingdom

It's important that Africans get over this attitude of the West owes them something and that the West is to blame for all Africa's problems.
D Burnham, UK

Why is it all about Africa? We need to also remember Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. These newly independent countries need just as much aid and they are just as poor as Africa. Moreover, aid to these countries might help to stem the flow of immigrants heading to Western Europe.
M. Liebner, Germany

It's naive to believe that the G8 summit will achieve anything

Arpad L Polan, Ottawa Canada
It's extremely naive to believe that the G8 summit will achieve anything that leads to alleviating poverty around the world. There will not be a solution to any of the grave global problems of today with the industrialists in control, simply because they are driven ultimately by their own financial interest which depends on the exploitation of cheap labour. Have you ever seen a protest in favour of the G7 or G8 summits? That's because the industrialists have no grassroots support. They seem to have hijacked power and the public interest all over the Planet.
Arpad L Polan, Ottawa Canada

I live but an hour away from Kananaskas. It's been thirty degrees out today. The leaders of the G8 have a golf game lined up. They are sitting amongst some of the most spectacular scenery on earth... don't tell me that in two days these guys are going to do more than dialogue on who is going to win the World Cup.
J Dichio, Airdrie Canada

Part of the problem must be that global multinationals hold the key to global finances: lesser developed countries are seen as purely 'resource' to be exploited and purged of their natural resources. The media's short-termism means that a sustained program of aid is unlikely to succeed and one has to question whether the media's focus is too narrow and blinkered.
Richard Potter, Britain

Let us not forget that whilst the western world gives around $50 billion annually to the developing world including Africa, its restrictive trade polices of closed markets, protectionism and subsidies cost the developing world over $100 billion every year. Aid and improved governance will only make a sustained difference if the west actually removes these constraints to the developing world.
Puneet, London, UK

There is one common factor to all successful development, namely that of grass roots self reliance.

Tom Noel, Kenya
You ask if $1bn is enough. I think this is a misleading question. The agricultural sector in OECD countries receives very nearly $1bn per day in subsidies to prop it up (Oxfam, June 2002). The US farm subsidies will increase by a further 70% to approximately $34,000 per farmer once the new US Farm Bill becomes operational in a few months time. The question is where should the $1bn be targeted? My suggestion is that we look at the evidence of what works in lifting people out of poverty: there is one common factor to all successful development, namely that of grass roots self reliance. Are governments, whether donor or recipient, really the answer? They certainly don't appear to be.
Tom Noel, Nairobi, Kenya

It is difficult to see what difference another billion will make when these same leaders have barely begun to deliver on the 100bn they promised three years ago in Cologne. HIPC simply isn't working. It is time for the G8 leaders to come up with an a new, fair and transparent system for debt cancellation which will not only prevent corruption and encourage sound financial policies, but which will also bring food, education and healthcare to the world's poorest people.
James, Reading, UK

For as long as I can remember, Western taxpayers have given billions and billions of pounds, dollars and euros to Africa every year, and it hasn't made any difference. Where does it all go? It's time to stop throwing good money after bad until the fundamental problems are addressed, namely that corrupt African government siphon off all the money and spend it on palaces and yachts. Not a penny more until African countries become proper democracies.
Guy Hammond, England

We need to have a long term solutions to these problems.

Mpaphi Kuswani, Botswana
The debt relief is a short term answer to African problems. We need to have a long term solutions to these problems. Let the Developed nations know that inequality exists because of the trade system that still exists. We are producers of raw materials which are bought cheap by developed nations, who manufacture them and sell them back to us at a high price. The debt burden is serious and is a vicious cycle of poverty. I hope this is the beginning of the Developed nations admitting that they share the blame of creating this problem.
Mpaphi Kuswani, Gaborone, Botswana

To all those who are arguing for the forgiveness of debt, are you clear on where this forgiveness must come from? A lot of the debt is corporate, which means that your pension funds are owed the money. I'm happy to give up a chunk of my pension to get rid of third world debt, but is everyone else? That's what you're asking for, so you must be sure that that's what you want.
John, London, UK

By cancelling debts we will simply free these nations to borrow again, and, believe me, they will. It does not help any situation to simply cancel a debt or interest. These nations have knowingly entered into agreements to borrow huge sums of money and have agreed to repay honourably. If I failed to meet my mortgage payments I would be out on the street, my building society would never agree to cancel any debt or interest payments, it's as simple as that. Anyway, our nation is broke. We can't afford our own National Health Service - we simply don't have the money to hand out or cancel and should not even be considering it.
Robert, Leicester, England

In January, President Bush asked Congress for an increase of $48bn for defence.

Graham, UK
In January, President Bush asked Congress for an increase of $48bn for defence. If $1bn is such a great deal surely $48bn would go a long way to solving many of the problems that cause conflict and therefore 'justify' defence spending in the first place. This is just another gesture to grab the headlines for a day. It will do no lasting good.
Graham, Bath, UK

The question of whether it's enough or not depends on how it is spent. Very often, aid is given to set up a project but none is given to maintain it. Building a school is easy; but often there's no money to pay for teachers and books for it, and within a few years it's little better than what was there before. And there are fields in Africa full of broken down 4x4s, because aid was given to buy them but not to maintain them.
Simon C, Maidenhead, UK

Whilst we bear no responsibility for the actions of African governments, still less the weather, it is high time that we address our responsibility for those aspects of the situation that we do cause. Perhaps if Africans paid less to us in debt and were able to fund universal education their political (and thus economic) experience would improve.
Michael Lakey, Newcastle, UK

Last time I heard, for every 1 which western governments give in aid, something like 7 comes back as interest payments on loans. We only get to hear about the "massive aid packages" though.
Phil, Surrey, UK

Unless it is backed by a fundamental reform of African politics it's a worthless gesture.

Neil, UK
1Bn in debt relief should be sufficient for African leaders to replace their aging fleets of Mercedes, increase their shopping trips abroad and send more family members to foreign private schools. It makes a great headline, but unless it is backed by a fundamental reform of African politics it's a worthless gesture.
Neil, UK

Cancel the debt and then give them the billions they need. As I see it, the G8 countries are simply giving back the money that Africa has already paid in interest! Not fair is it??
John Beckett, London

Has it gone unnoticed that a single company has managed to fool the world by hiding $3.8bn? What hope is there for $1bn spread across an entire continent? Crippling countries with debt is not a solution, it is a problem. G8 needs to think again.
Christopher Laird, Tokyo, Japan

If I lent my son 5 and he didn't pay me back, would I cancel the debt? No, I'd ensure he paid it in full. If I just let him off, I'd be sending the wrong message. I think most people would treat their children the same. So why do we lend these nations more and more money. By all means cancel the interest part of the loan, but don't cancel the lot and in future don't lend any more.
Martin Smith, London, UK

Martin Smith's analogy about lending his son 5 is pathetic. Although it is true that such countries should not be allowed to be irresponsible with repayments the fact remains that debt repayments are crippling many African countries. It was not the decision of the great number of underprivileged poor in these countries to borrow, it was the governments'. To insist on full debt repayment is condemning millions to disease and starvation. Don't be so cold hearted.
Mark Children, England

Trading aid for political concessions is nonsense

Nick, Edinburgh, Scotland
I believe only health and education in the Third World should benefit from aid. There should be an emphasis on children. Trading aid for political concessions is nonsense. The UN should govern and distribute aid itself, cutting out corrupt middlemen.
Nick, Edinburgh, Scotland

Will the undemocratic and harsh government of Saudi Arabia be on the agenda? China's continuing abuse and occupation of Tibet? No, more like how to build the economic equivalent of the Berlin wall around the affluent eight and continue their imperialism. I love living in the civilised free world...
Ian, Middlesbrough, UK

Aid should be given as Blair as suggested, with political and economic reforms insisted upon and progress monitored. If they accept aid, then they must accept some measure of responsibility. As unfolding events in Zimbabwe demonstrate, so much of what devastates the everyday lives of Africans comes from their own rulers. If the G8 summit can come to grips with any aspect of this issue, it will be a success. Especially without the useless and disruptive sideshows from petulant anti-globalism hooligans.
Peter C. Kohler, Washington DC USA

Politics has zero influence compared to business

Graham, Warsaw, Poland
Pure window dressing. Politics has zero influence compared to business. Corporations are the new imperialists. They strip developing countries of all possible resources. They bribe officials and block unions. They exploit workforces and support compliant undemocratic regimes. They care nothing for the environment and have carte blanche. Now you tell me what Blair et al can do against such overwhelming economic force? Especially when business pays for election campaigns and the world's best lobbyists. The G8 leaders are just the PR department of capitalism.
Graham, Warsaw, Poland

Graham from Warsaw claims that corporations "strip developing countries of all possible resources". Perhaps he would care to explain, in that case, why developing countries typically run current account deficits - i.e. they receive more from the world than the world takes from them.
Oliver Kamm, London, UK

Why are you so opposed to making the world bank loans into grants? It seems to me that Europe is more interested in making a profit than helping anyone because these countries cannot afford to pay back these loans and build their counties at the same time. If you doubt it - no country has repaid the loans given to them by the Marshall Plan in Europe. I think Europe is just trying once again to gang up on and shame the US into doing the lion's share - again! Why can't Europe unite and actually act on their so-called superior ideals rather then criticising the US for not bankrupting itself!
Debbie Curnes, Yuma, AZ, USA

If we were trying to help them we would cancel Third World debt

Rahul, UK
May I suggest on the outside that it looks to people in the West that the government is trying to help those disadvantaged people in the Third World. But in reality they are using the Third World for cheap labour to make goods to sell in the West. These jobs are thus taken out of people in the West's hands. People are not actually being helped but exploited. If we were trying to help them we would cancel Third World debt which is 13 times more than what they borrow. They will be in debt forever to the West and always in our pockets.
Rahul, UK

I do not think that blackmailing the developing countries to adopt "better governance" will work. Rather develop an impartial means of rating developing countries (similar but not quite the same as large businesses are rated for debt purposes) which can be used by all donor countries to assess where to put their money. In Africa's case, I recommend that the criteria to be used should be negotiated with the leaders of the African Union.
Garth, Harare, Zimbabwe

Did G8 do enough for Africa?



5099 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Key stories

Aid debate

Africa's future





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20 Jun 02 | Business
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