'Paradigm shift' in western ideas of Africa: Eid

1st June 2005, Comments 0 comments

1 June 2005, CAPE TOWN - The improving economic and political conditions in Africa came under the spotlight at the start of the World Economic Forum summit in Cape Town on Wednesday, with German representative Uschi Eid talking of a "paradigm shift" in western perceptions.

1 June 2005

CAPE TOWN - The improving economic and political conditions in Africa came under the spotlight at the start of the World Economic Forum summit in Cape Town on Wednesday, with German representative Uschi Eid talking of a "paradigm shift" in western perceptions.

Around 642 business and political leaders representing about 40 countries were in attendance at the Africa Economic Summit organised by the Geneva-based body.

The meeting comes ahead of the gathering of G8 leaders in Gleneagles on 6 July, where British prime minister Tony Blair has pledged to make Africa's case for increased aid and debt relief.

Speaking at the Cape Town gathering, the German chancellor's G8 representative for Africa, Dr. Uschi Eid, praised the British for putting Africa high on the agenda of the G8 summit.

Eid noted a "paradigm shift" in western perceptions of the continent.

"I think that this African shift in paradigm has succeeded, at least in Germany, to change the accent in perceptions. Who really knows that, in the last few years, 44 out of 48 elections in Africa took place democratically?" Eid told journalists.

Eid said she hoped the summit would lead to a new dynamic, even though the foundation for a new approach to helping Africa had been laid at the G8 summit under Canada's presidency in 2002.

"It's about changing from abstract insight to implementation," she said.

Eid had just returned from a tour of Botswana, a country widely regarded as a successful African model. She highlighted as a mistake the fact that the sparsely populated southern African country had been sidelined by the international community for so long.

Commenting on the potential of the continent at the summit, news service Reuters chairman Niall FitzGerald said there was a growing awareness of the improving economics and politics of Africa.

There was "realistic aspiration" that the average economic growth across Africa that was approaching 5 percent could reach "up to 7 or even 8 percent", he said.

Wealthy nations had an opportunity to support Africans in rebuilding their continent, FitzGerald said.

"This is not an initiative which the rich nations are saying we will show you what to do and we will do it for you. This is a recognition that Africa knows what it needs to do, but it does need support and it needs support in a very business-like, pragmatic and realistic way," he said.

Lazarus Zim, chief executive of mining giant Anglo American, told journalists he believed the attention the international community was giving Africa at the moment was "unprecedented".

"We have never had this type of global attention on Africa in such a structured way, and therefore, this is why this summit is so important," Zim said.

The opening of the summit was buoyed by comments from new World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, who said he wants to make the fight against poverty in Africa his highest priority.

The continent's needs are greater than any other region of the world, the 61-year-old Wolfowitz said hours before the start of his term on Wednesday.

DPA

Subject: German news

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