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The Commission for Africa, set up by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair last year to galvanize common action by rich countries on Africa, released its final report in March. “In terms of analysis and in terms of diagnosis, [the report] has done very, very well,” Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said. “The challenge is putting the recommendations into action.”
The report contains about 100 frequently raised but yet-to-be implemented proposals. These include cancelling debt, doubling aid, removing rich country trade subsidies and promoting good governance in Africa. It also points out the role developed countries play in facilitating corruption in Africa. The commission comprised 17 members, nine of them from Africa. They included Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and the executive director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. K.Y. Amoako.
The release of the report comes at a time when the UK is chairing the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries. The proposals are set to be put to the G-8 summit in July, to be held in Scotland. “When G-8 leaders meet in July,” commented Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon, “they must go beyond promises and expressions of goodwill. They must, quite simply, convert this report into action.”
The first round of a massive polio immunization drive targeting 100 million children was carried out simultaneously in 22 African countries on 25 February. The ambitious effort, part of a global campaign to eradicate the crippling disease, includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Côte d’ivoire, where conflict has severely disrupted public health services. A second coordinated national immunization day was scheduled for 9 April. The cost of the African immunization campaign, which will continue thorough 2006, is estimated at $275 mn.
The 17-year, $4 bn global campaign suffered a major setback last year, when government and religious officials in northern Nigeria halted polio immunizations amid allegations that the vaccine was tainted. Polio has spread from Nigeria to countries as distant as Saudi Arabia and Botswana, reinfecting many previously polio-free countries and requiring additional immunization programmes.
In late February the South African power company Eskom Holdings announced plans to build a massive $50 bn hydro-electric power generating facility on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When completed, noted Eskom Chairman Reuel Khoza, the Inga Rapids project would have a capacity of 40,000 megawatts a year and generate enough electricity to power Africa’s industrialization and generate hard currency through sales of power to southern Europe. “Africa urgently needs energy to lift its people out of poverty,” Mr. Khoza told world environment ministers at UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi. The proposal was an old one, he noted, but had gained political momentum as a key part of the energy programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
The dam, which is still in the planning stages, will not block the river’s natural flow, as conventional dams would. A more environment-friendly “run of river” design will be used instead, in which water is routed from the river to a series of power-generating turbines and then channelled back into the river. When completed, the project would increase Africa’s overall electric-generating capacity by 40 per cent. Environmental groups have nevertheless questioned the ecological impact of the project and note that private investors, who are expected to provide the bulk of the financing, may be unwilling to risk large investments in a country still ravaged by war.
Ms. Ann Veneman will take office as the new executive director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on 1 May. She was appointed in January by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to succeed the out-going Executive Director Carol Bellamy. Ms. Veneman has extensive experience in agricultural and food issues in the US, at various times managing agricultural programmes in California, serving as deputy under-secretary of agriculture for international affairs and commodity programmes and, in the four years up to her appointment, as secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.
Ms. Amina Mohamed has been elected as the first woman to chair the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the organization’s highest decision-making body between biannual ministerial conferences. At the time of the election, she was Kenya’s permanent representative to the WTO, and was known as an active campaigner on trade-related development issues and on access to essential medicines. She has also chaired the WTO’s dispute settlement and trade policy review bodies, has coordinated the work of the African Group both at the WTO and the Human Rights Commission and has served as president of the UN Conference on Disarmament.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board has appointed Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo as its regional director for Africa, for a five-year term beginning 1 February 2005. He succeeds Dr. Ebrahim Malick Samba, who has retired. A national of Angola, Dr Sambo has been active in public health for more than 25 years, including as Angola’s vice-minister of health. He joined the WHO in 1989, serving variously as its representative in Guinea-Bissau and its Africa regional director of programme management.
The UN Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Pierre Schori of Sweden to succeed Mr. Albert Tévoédjrè as his special representative for Côte d’Ivoire, effective 1 April 2005. Mr. Schori served as Sweden’s permanent representative to the UN in 2000-2004. Previously, he served as Sweden’s minister for international development cooperation and was a member of the European Parliament.