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Bush lays out his Africa agenda

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Bush lays out his Africa agenda

US President George W Bush has outlined his plans for helping Africa in a speech ahead of next week's G8 summit.

Mr Bush said the US will double assistance to the region by 2010, but stressed trade and good government were as important as financial aid.

Anti-poverty campaigners said Mr Bush's pledge was insufficient, while South Africa said it was a step forward.

The issues of Africa's debt to rich countries and climate change will top the agenda at the summit in Scotland.

Onus on reform

Mr Bush announced the US would double its aid to Africa over the next five years, "with primary focus on reforming countries".

African leaders, he said, must be the "agents of reform" rather than "passive recipients of money.

The announcement is in addition to $674m (£350m) in aid for Africa promised by Mr Bush in a summit with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this month.

US government development aid is lower than most Western countries when measured in terms of gross national product, but its non-governmental donations are much higher.

South African presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo told the BBC he was "very pleased" with Mr Bush's announcement.

It was, he said "a step in the direction we want. It is now incumbent upon Africans themselves to improve on all aspects of governance". Tony Blair's office said Mr Bush's pledge "creates real momentum for a successful outcome at Gleneagles," the Scottish venue for the G8 summit.

But the anti-poverty charity ActionAid said Mr Bush did not go far enough.

"This is a very modest step forward that is being spun as a colossal leap," said spokesman Patrick Watt.

It is also thought critics will look carefully at how the figures in the speech translate, as money pledged is not necessarily the same as the sums the US Congress will approve.

In his speech, Mr Bush said there had to be a new approach to dealing with the debt burden of the poorest countries.

He said there must be an emphasis on encouraging trade, which he called the "engine for development".

The dismantling of trade barriers and wider opening up of Western markets to African products has been a key demand of anti-poverty campaigners.

Stability and prosperity

The president said progress in Africa was crucial because the interests of the developed world were directly at stake.

"The whole world will benefit from prosperity and stability on the African continent," he said. He said the events of 11 September 2001 showed the United States was threatened by instability abroad.

"We fight the war on terror with power, we will win the war on terror with freedom and justice and hope," he said.

Mr Bush also said there was a deep need across the continent to provide women with greater empowerment and improve the opportunities for primary education.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says on the issue of climate change, Mr Bush stressed the familiar US position - the need for newer, cleaner forms of energy.

But he says overall Mr Bush may have shifted sufficiently to give Tony Blair much of the Gleneagles outcome he hopes for.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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