General News of Sunday, 20 October 2002
Source: Reuters News Service
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Ghana and Uganda have asked to have their economic and political governance rated under the continent's new recovery plan, diplomats said on Sunday.
The controversial governance monitoring plan known as peer review calls for African leaders to rate nations on tough new standards to attract more foreign investment and aid to the world's poorest continent.
Peer review is seen as crucial to the success of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the economic blueprint of the new African Union launched in July.
NEPAD preaches improved economic and political governance by Africans in exchange for greater investment and aid.
Diplomats said the two states -- the first to volunteer -- made the offer at a meeting of African ministers of finance, planning and economic development that ended in South Africa on Sunday.
The meeting, convened by the Ethiopia-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), was due to have ended Monday, but was closed on Sunday after ministers said they had tackled key issues of the conference and wanted to return home.
"Ghana has asked to be peer reviewed," ECA Executive Secretary Kingsley Amoako said. Another ECA official added that Uganda had also asked to be put under scrutiny.
The offer by Ghana and Uganda, which are seen by Western donors as good economic reform pupils, will be presented to NEPAD's implementing committee of heads of state next month.
Amoako and and South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said ministers in Johannesburg were concerned that NEPAD and its peer review framework get quickly under way, because they were attending far too many meetings on the subject but no one had seen any fruits from the deal yet.
"Now is the time to move from vision to action. Unless we can show results on the ground, NEPAD will be another lost opportunity for Africa," ministers said in a draft statement.
"One possibility for demonstrating NEPAD's potential, to Africans and to Africa's development partners, is to move quickly on the African Peer review mechanism," they said, adding that action was also required to implement regional infrastructure projects.
ECA officials said on Friday they did not expect countries to rush to be peer reviewed, but that momentum could gradually build up as countries began to see the benefits.
The ministers said they were seeking greater integration into the global markets to achieve NEPAD's goals and were keen to rejuvenate agricultural exports and identify ways of regaining their market share.
"We urge our international partners to remove all further barriers to trade -- particularly OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) agricultural subsidies, tariff peaks, and numerous non-tariff barriers," they said.
The ministers also discussed how to enhance the campaign against AIDS, reduce poverty and fight hunger.