LONDON (AFP) — Some African countries could “go under” if they are not helped through the global downturn, threatening “total chaos and violence”, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned the G20 on Monday.
At a meeting of African leaders in London ahead of next month’s summit of the Group of 20 rich and emerging countries, presidents and prime ministers from across the continent warned of the costs of ignoring Africa.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was meeting African leaders to hear their concerns about the world economic downturn in the G20 build-up.
“They should care about Africa because it is in their interests,” Meles, who will attend the G20 as the chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), told reporters.
“Any stimulus money spent in developed countries is going to have less global impact than if the same amount of money were to be spent in Africa.
“Some countries could go under and that would mean total chaos and violence. In the end the cost of violence is going to be much higher than the cost of supporting Africa.
“We are talking about the range of money that is being spent on the mid-sized banks. Consider Africa as one of those banks.”
Meles said specific amounts were not discussed in London.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf added: “The cost of sustainability in reform and recovery is much, much less than the cost of peacekeeping were the crisis to engender a return to conflict.”
African countries are expected to be hit by falls in prices for commodities such as oil, gold, zinc and cooper, as well as drops in tourism, aid and money being sent home by workers in the developed world.
Brown told the meeting that the global economic crisis should be used as an opportunity to move more quickly towards building a fairer and more equal world order.
South Africa is the only African country in the G20, though NEPAD chairman Meles will attend the April summit, as will the AU Commission chairman.
Meles said the African leaders believed they had won Brown’s agreement on the fundamental issues of providing the continent with additional aid and greater ease of access to funds.
Among those attending Monday’s gathering were Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, plus the finance ministers from South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Cape Verde and Rwanda. Eleven countries in total were represented.
Central bank chiefs plus delegates from pan-African bodies, including the African Union, also attended.
Kikwete warned: “This is a very unprecedented problem. Africa is a victim. We are not responsible for its genesis but all of us are suffering.”
Odinga added: “When there are problems in Africa, Africans will vote with their feet by coming to Europe.
“We want to retain those people in Africa by making conditions in Africa more attractive because otherwise they become a burden to Europeans.”