LONDON (Reuters) - Rich countries should pay for African governments to get advice on negotiating the best deals for exploiting their natural resources, a panel set up by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday.
The Commission for Africa, which includes serving and former African leaders and financial figures among its 17 members, also called on donor governments to provide an extra $10 billion-$20 billion a year to help Africa adapt to climate change.
Five years after the commission’s initial report helped focus international efforts to boost development in the poorest continent, the panel issued a new report praising the progress African countries had made on the economy and on increasing spending on health, education and agriculture.
But it said much remained to be done.
Despite average annual growth rates for Africa of six percent for much of the past decade and a quadrupling of trade and foreign investment, most Africans had yet to feel the benefits of economic growth, it said.
While some African countries were on track to meet some of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aimed at drastically reducing poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015, progress needed to be broader and faster, it said.
It urged African governments to ensure strong growth reduced poverty among ordinary Africans.
Donors were falling short of their aid pledges and progress on reforming international trade rules had been dismal, it said.
The commission urged donor countries to support a fund to help African governments get access to the best legal and technical advice so they could “negotiate deals on the exploitation of their countries’ natural resources that will be of greatest benefit to their population.”
Demand for African oil and other commodities, particularly from fast-growing China, has helped drive growth and investment in Africa. However, there is a widespread perception that commodities riches often benefit the elite rather than the poor.
The panel urged other rich countries to follow the U.S. lead by making it mandatory for oil, gas and mining companies listed on their stock exchanges to disclose what they pay foreign governments for the right to extract natural resources and to make it an offence to import illegally sourced timber.
The commission said African governments must act quickly to draw up strategies to tackle climate change and said they would need tens of billions of dollars a year in additional funding from rich countries to confront this “massive challenge”.
The Commission for Africa includes former British prime ministers Blair and Gordon Brown, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, Botswana central bank Governor Linah Mohohlo and activist and musician Bob Geldof.
The commission’s original report, published in March 2005, made ambitious proposals to cut African countries’ debts, make world trade fairer, boost aid and eradicate disease.
The report helped pave the way for the agreement among Group of Eight leading industrial nations at the July 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, to more than double aid to Africa.
The commission’s new report was released shortly before world leaders meet at the United Nations from September 20 to 22 to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals.