"Coalition" needed to fight poverty in Africa

Poverty reduction is one of the five objectives of Swiss foreign policy Keystone

A senior Swiss aid official has called for a "large coalition" of African nations, donors and international financial bodies to help fight poverty on the continent.

This content was published on May 20, 2006 - 10:25

Serge Chappatte, deputy director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), also demanded renewed efforts to combat corruption, which he labelled a "significant tax" on economic development.

Addressing the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (ADB) in Burkina Faso, Chappatte noted that the continent enjoyed sustained annual growth of around five per cent, aided by economic reforms and improved governance.

But he warned that Africa would still fail to meet the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, making it essential that all parties redoubled their efforts to ensure growth was maintained.

Fighting corruption

The key to this, he said, was to ensure good governance through fighting corruption, establishing peace and stability, instituting sensible economic policies and strengthening the democratic process.

"According to the African Union, in 2002 corruption was more or less equal to 25 per cent of the gross national product of the whole of Africa," Chappatte told swissinfo.

"It's a significant tax which is paid as a matter of fact on development, and we have to deliver on this issue at both ends – on the side of the African governments and also on the side of the donors."

In his speech in front of 1,300 delegates in the capital Ouagadougou, the SDC deputy director said Switzerland – along with the World Bank and Transparency International – saw corruption as the main obstacle to sustainable social and economic development in Africa.

Chappatte also denounced continued conflict and social upheaval in certain parts of Africa as among the biggest impediments to good governance.

"The events in Darfur, the Great Lakes region and others, unfortunately show that social instability, civil conflict and war are the main forces of destruction on this continent," he said.

"They represent a serious obstacle blocking the path towards development, and we must all make it a priority to overcome this."

Bank reform

Chappatte praised efforts to reform the ADB since president Donald Kaberuka took office in July last year. These have led to an overhaul of its senior management and the decentralisation of the bank's operations.

In 2004 Switzerland gave more than SFr35 million ($28.7 million) to the bank.

Under decentralisation plans, the ADB aims to open 25 local offices across Africa. Kaberuka was due to inaugurate the bank's new branch in Ouagadougou on Friday.

"This decentralisation is, in the view of Switzerland, a very important element to bring the bank closer to its partner countries where strategies for fighting against poverty are made," said Chappatte.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

In brief

Poverty reduction is the foremost goal in all SDC activities and is one of the five objectives of Swiss foreign policy.

Despite considerable economic growth in the various SDC development cooperation countries, poverty does not appear to be declining.

According to Swiss aid officials, recent reports from Uganda show that in spite of the steadily growing general economy, the poverty rate has increased in rural areas. A similar trend is evident in the statistics of other countries, mainly in Africa.

In 2004 Switzerland gave more than SFr35 million ($28.7 million) to the African Development Bank.

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