NAIROBI, April 2 (Xinhuanet) -- African civil society organizations have stepped up a new push for debt cancellation of the 39 billion US dollars paid by African states to lenders annually ahead of crucial World Bank, International Monetary Fund meeting set for April 16-17.
"We have been strategizing for popular action and public mobilization to put pressure on the World Bank and IMF to reform the policy agenda and cancel debts owed by African nations and improve the quality and quantity of aid," Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of the Johannesburg-based CIVICS (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) told Xinhua in an interview Saturday.
Naidoo said the African countries paid debts worth 39 billion dollars to mainly bilateral donor organizations compared to 27 billion dollars it received in aid inflows, a stark demonstration of the capital loss the continent suffers despite its branding as absolutely poor.
"African nations are also spending an average of 40 percent of their annual budgets on servicing debts which were given ages back but which the various nations still have to re-pay as part of national obligations," Naidoo said.
Over 70 representatives of human and civil rights watchdog organizations drawn from 20 African nations earlier met in Nairobi with ambassadors and high commissioners from the Group of Eight (G8) rich states and have agreed to press for reforms.
When addressing a news conference in Nairobi Friday, the representatives said they will organize simultaneous demonstrations of solidarity and protest across the continent, if significant movement on Africa's debt is not made at the April meeting.
"The struggle for debt cancellation goes to the way debts are being managed. African countries have been paying for debts and infact, most of them are now paying the interests after paying the principal sum," said Coumba Toure, the coordinator of the Africa Network Campaign on Education For All.
Toure, a Senegalese national, said African nations have been seeking debt cancellations and their increasing calls for more rationale in dealing with the debt crisis led to the creation of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).
"The IMF and World Bank must go beyond the existing group of HIPCs, and cancel the debts of other low income countries, using the Millennium Development Goals as a basic yardstick in any assessment of debt sustainability," Toure said.
The group of civil societies said they have changed their tack in handling the global campaign initiatives for debt cancellation to focus on the citizens and solicit for popular support rather than directly petitioning governments.
"We are saying we need coherence in the debt issues. We are talking about debt cancellation but not relief and the political momentum is so far in our favor. We are very optimistic we would get public opinion in the West in our favor," said Naidoo.
Naidoo said the African civil societies met last week in Londonto map out new strategies of having a proper African representation at the forthcoming Group of Eight (G8) Summit in July.
The G8 leaders are expected to meet in Gleneagles, Scotland in July to mull the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Africa Commission plan and adopt its development agenda, but critics have pointed out opposition by the United States, Canada and Japan was likely to lead to its downfall.
Africa Commission seeks to have debts worth 25 billion US dollars canceled every year while rich nations only offer a fraction of their national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to aid the fight against poverty. The plan also seeks to improve aid inflows into Africa.
African civil society organizations have hailed the Blair plan as the first-ever opportunity to rid the continent of poverty and put its development agenda at the top of the world's leaders whosedeliberations have been dominated by terrorism and the war in Iraq.
The World Bank has pledged support for the plan, saying that they are ready to meet the challenge of providing 170 billion dollars proposed for improving the roads, health, power infrastructure connectivity in Africa. Enditem