Africa to use own voice and work with IMF

Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania’s president, has expressed Africa's determination to speak for itself at the G20 meeting while welcoming an offer from the International Monetary Fund to help ensure its needs are not ignored.

Two days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, told a conference on the global economic crisis in Dar es Salaam that he could be Africa’s “voice” at next month’s G20 summit, Mr Kikwete told the Financial Times: “Of course that’s okay with us.”

But whereas no African leaders attended the previous G20 meeting in Washington in November, he said Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, had invited Meles Zenawi, his Ethiopian counterpart, to participate in the London meeting next month.

“We will be represented, but if we can have somebody else amplifying our message, then especially after this conference it’s the right thing for the IMF to do, because now they have our views, our opinions,” Mr Kikwete said in at interview at State House in Dar es Salaam.

Africa has not experienced a systemic banking crisis but the global downturn is threatening to undo a decade of economic progress by depressing exports, commodity prices, foreign investment and remittances. Growth in sub-Saharan Africa this year is likely to halve to just over 3 per cent, the fund predicts.

At the IMF-organised conference, African finance ministers and central bank governors released a joint declaration calling on G20 countries to help cushion the impact of the crisis by raising aid to Africa and giving the continent a place in global stimulus plans.

The fund’s relevance had been called into question during the recent run of global growth, during which China made in-roads into Africa with a series of multi-billion dollar investment deals.

But the IMF has been revived by the financial crisis and in Tanzania Mr Strauss-Kahn and African policy makers declared their intent to build a “stronger partnership” based on more financing, greater flexibility and reforms to IMF governance to enhance Africa’s say.

Mr Kikwete won a spontaneous round of applause when he told the conference this week: “If an African country was responsible for the current financial crisis the IMF would have jumped on us without invitation, with conditionality, roadmaps and benchmarks.”

Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s finance minister, said the world’s model of capitalism was broken and “some of those who proselytised this model are employed by the IMF”.

“It is certainly time for advanced economies to be less arrogant,” Mr Strauss-Kahn said. “The way leaders of advanced economies address leaders of the rest of the world has to change and it is in the process of changing.”

Endorsing Mr Kikwete’s stance, Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said: “Africa does not need a spokesman at G20 who is not African.”

He said the IMF was more relevant than ever today and that it had changed since the painful era of “structural adjustment” reform programmes. But he added: “There are serious legacy issues.”

Speaking after Mr Strauss-Kahn addressed the conference, Francois Kanimba, governor of Rwanda’s central bank, said “that’s a great speech, but so far I don’t know what he means” in terms of new financing and flexibility.

“Sometimes we get contradictions between the statements from the top leader and the behaviour of staff on the ground. You can get confused,” he added.

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