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South Africa seeks fresh approach to UN poverty targets

Published on 09/06/2010

South Africa's trade minister Rob Davies on Wednesday called for a new approach to UN poverty-cutting targets based on industrial development instead of aid handouts and social progress alone.

Davies drew a parallel with football’s World Cup which begins later this week in South Africa, saying it had helped to accelerate investment in key infrastructure sectors such as transport.

“We think that social policies and aid alone are not going to be able to make the requisite progress on the Millenium Development Goals that the world needs to see made by 2015,” said Davies.

“We need to break from an approach which sees the achievement of MDG as embracement of some particular economic models… together with social policies and aid flows,” he added on the sidelines of a UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting.

The eight goals for 2015 set by world leaders 10 years ago include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The South African minister said he supported the goals, but added that poor nations also needed structural change to develop their productive forces and “scale up industrial policies” that underpin trade.

That includes a higher degree of local manufacturing, and investment in energy, railways and tourism that could have a lasting impact, he added.

“What will happen with the World Cup is the world will see that South Africa has delivered a very attractive, efficient set of infrastructure and software that goes with it,” Davies said.

South Africa had used the tournament to promote investment in transport and tourism.

“The World Cup has just accelerated those investments that were in the pipeline. The World Cup is part of a longer infrastructure programme which goes on for decades,” he said.

UNCTAD officials have frequently argued that Africa in particular needs to move away from dependence on raw materials extraction and commodities to produce more finished goods locally and generate jobs.

South Africa is “very much in line with what we are trying to push,” said UNCTAD official Richard Kozul-Wright.