March 17, 2009 / 6:29 AM / in 11 years

African leaders petition G20 for more funds

LONDON (Reuters) - African countries petitioned the G20 on Monday for an increase in funding and easier access to international financing to help them through the global financial crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (3rd L) during talks with African leaders at Lancaster House in London, March 16, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Curry/Pool

More than 20 African leaders and ministers met British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to present a joint African position before the G20 summit of old and emerging economic powers that Brown will host on April 2.

Brown will transmit their message to the G20, which will examine how to restart the stalled world economy and reform global financial institutions.

South Africa is the only African member of the G20, although Brown has invited umbrella groups the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Union Commission to the summit.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the critical issues African countries wanted addressed were additional funds and ease of access to those funds.

Asked how much additional money African nations wanted, Meles said the figures “being bandied around” ranged as high as $50 billion.

“There are bound to be various means of funding and various means of disbursing those funds. We have discussed those with the prime minister (Brown) and I believe we have agreed on the fundamentals of all of this,” he told a news conference.

He said the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had millions of dollars that could be released to African countries now “by simply modifying the disbursement mechanisms”.

COST OF CRISIS

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said the cost of keeping reform going was much less than the cost of peacekeeping operations if the economic crisis led to a resumption of fighting in her country, racked by a civil war between 1989 and 2003 that killed 200,000 people.

Leaders from Tanzania, Botswana and Kenya and finance ministers from Nigeria and Rwanda also attended.

Brown said he hoped the result of the G20 summit would be that every continent, including Africa, “has its fair share of support over the next few months and equally that every continent feels that it can play a part in drawing up the plan for recovery.”

African ministers said the continent was being hard hit by the crisis and was seeing a reduction in overseas aid flows.

“In the case of Africa, people are going to die. We are talking about lives, not just somebody who will have to drive a smaller car,” Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali told Reuters.

The risk was that overseas development aid would “dry up or diminish,” South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel told reporters. “Some countries have indicated they are not capable of meeting these commitments,” he said.

“It is not possible to stimulate the world economy while ignoring the millions of the poor in Africa, south Asia and other places,” the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, told BBC radio before the meeting.

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