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Africa seeks secure seat at G8-G20 table

CANADA: Every year they come back, a small hand-picked group of African leaders, invited to represent their troubled continent at the G8 summit of the world’s most powerful nations.

Every year they hold brief talks, get their photographs taken with their G8 colleagues on the manicured lawns of a picturesque conference venue and leave with promises of billions of dollars in aid — much of it never paid.

On the face of it, Friday’s “African Outreach” meeting at the Toronto G8 meeting should follow the pattern, but this year African campaigners are hoping to secure a firmer platform from which to make themselves heard.

“We’d like to see the African Union chairman make a clear demand that they should have permanent representation at the G20,” said Soren Ambrose, an aid expert and Kenya-based representative of the agency ActionAid.

The G20, which includes the established G8 powerhouses and the biggest economies of the developing world, is gradually taking the place of its more exclusive predecessor as the main global economic forum.

Of Africa’s 53 countries only South Africa has a seat at the G20 table, and other leaders are invited to yearly G8 gatherings on an ad hoc basis according to the preferences of the host nation, in this case Canada.

This year presidents Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia got the call. But, having no permanent G8 status, African officials are not so involved in the diplomatic legwork that goes on between summits and have only a few or months to prepare their case before the big meeting, Ambrose argued.

Toronto, Friday, AFP

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