African nations seek G-20 support in financial crisis

African nations seek G-20 support in financial crisis

Tunisia: Top African finance officials urged wealthy nations on Wednesday to help their continent during this weekend’s Group of 20 crisis summit, vowing on their part to boost economic reforms and national cash reserves.

Leaders of 20 major economies will meet in Washington on Saturday to find solutions to the global financial crisis, but South Africa is the only African nation invited.

Jean Ping, the president of the African Union, described Tunisia’s gathering of some 30 African government ministers and heads of national banks as an urgent call to make sure the continent isn’t forgotten as richer nations reconsider the world financial framework.

Ping expressed regret that Africans “weren’t really invited to the summit ... though it will be deciding the world’s future."

The African finance officials issued a closing statement, dubbed “The Tunis Declaration," which urges international financial institutions such as the World Bank to “be reactive in providing support to African countries that would come to be affected by the crisis."

The declaration also said that African nations would commit to “intensify their economic reforms and create stronger national cash reserves."

It expressed concern that the crisis would hit African economies just as some of them are making a modest turnaround, and warned a recession could further hinder the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations to alleviate world poverty by 2015.

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi said the meeting hosted Wednesday should “make Africa’s voice heard, so that its expectations are taken into account by the world’s great leaders."

African economies have been somewhat protected from the financial sector meltdown because they are little integrated in world banking. But officials here worry that a recession in the United States and Europe would lessen international aid to the continent and that decreased exports would hurt already weak revenue streams.

“Nobody can escape the effects of the crisis," said Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank. Economic forecasts for Africa are “very bleak," said Kaberuka, who expects the continent’s economic growth rate to fall from 6.5 percent this year to 5 percent next year.

He said the current financial crisis had underlined how interconnected all economies are, whether in rich or poor countries. “No solution will be possible if it isn’t global, well-coordinated and based on solidarity," he said.