When G8 leaders meet next week in Kananaskis, the plight of Africa will be at the top of their agenda. They are expected to unveil an action plan in response to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a proposal for more Western development aid advanced by three prominent African leaders.
Many civil society organizations in Africa, however, disagree with the direction and strategy of the NEPAD plan. They would prefer a much greater and more generously funded effort to fight the preventable diseases that are ravaging their continent.
In a special CCPA report released today--"Africa Shortchanged: The Global Fund and the G8 Agenda"--economist Marc Lee agrees with the African critics of NEPAD and urges the G8 leaders to channel most of their aid to Africa in the form of increased contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
"The economic cost of preventable diseases in Africa is massive," Lee points out, noting that some 25 million Africans are now infected with HIV/AIDS, with infection rates topping 30% of the population in some countries. More than 12 million African children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS deaths, and a generation of teachers, health care professionals, managers and other workers has been decimated.
"Without measures to address the AIDS pandemic and other killer diseases," he says, "there is little basis for a revival of African economies. Simply put, sick people cannot build strong economies. "
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to wealthy countries to contribute more generously to the Global Fund, but so far only about $2 billion in total public and private donations has been received. "Saving lives in Africa may pull the heartstrings," says Lee, "but so far it has not loosened the pursestrings."
The target for the Global Fund is $10 billion, which may sound like a lot of money, but, relative to the wealth of the world's richest nations, is merely a drop in the bucket. "The G8 countries alone could easily bankroll the Global Fund," says Lee, "and the expenditures would scarcely be noticeable to their citizens. The main barriers are political, not economic."
In the industrialized countries, the development of a "cocktail" of three antiretroviral drugs has dramatically cut the number of deaths from AIDS, but most African countries cannot afford these drugs. Making them accessible is literally a matter of life and death.
"If the G8 leaders are serious about helping Africa when they meet in Kananaskis," says Lee, "it is time that they decided to give more generously to the Global Fund. That would be a real investment in Africa's future and the health of its people."