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Foreign minister says international support is key to African stability

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss has stressed the importance of continued international commitment on behalf of countries in Africa. He said stability on the continent depended on global support.

Speaking in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, at a conference of Swiss ambassadors in Africa, Deiss said poverty was the root cause of conflict in certain countries. He added that conflict had led to the displacement of millions of people and the disruption of economies.

The foreign minister said Switzerland was ready to assume its responsibilities in fighting poverty by working on a bilateral level with local partners in the countries concerned, as well as on the multilateral level.

The conference was also attended by representatives of the government's Development Agency, which has priority programmes in seven countries in Africa and three so-called special programmes.

The agency also helps finance programmes of Swiss non-governmental aid organisations. Five of them are grouped into the Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations.

A representative of the coalition, Bruno Gurtner, said he was pleased with Switzerland's declared intention to increase its official development assistance from 0.33 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to 0.4 per cent over 10 years.

He said Swiss aid deserved good marks, but that his coalition would be pressing the government to spend more in Africa in future.

"Quality can always be improved and perhaps Switzerland should concentrate more on poverty alleviation, debt relief and budget aid as long as governments meet good governance critieria. If Switzerland wants to help the poorest parts of the world, then it must devote more aid to Africa," Gurtner says.

Gurtner said that Africa could also be helped by encouraging other areas to open their markets to products from poor African countries.

He said money flows from Africa needed to be reduced, and the private sector should be encouraged to develop an increased sense of responsibility which would enable Africa to benefit from private capital flows.

by Paul Sufrin


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