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12 Africa Trade Network Annual Review and Strategy Meeting


ATN 12

From 11-14 August, members of the ATN and other networks of civil society organisations (including trade unions, organisations of women, farmers, faith-based groups and non-governmental organisations) working on finance, trade, investment, economic development and climate change in Africa met at the 12 ATN Annual Review and Strategy Meeting in Accra, Ghana.  The meeting discussed the current crises of the global economy and their implications for Africa’s development and adopted the following shared understandings and conclusions.



The unprecedented global economic crises which have afflicted the whole world over the past two years have their origins in the advanced industrial economies of the West.  They are rooted in the neo-liberal capitalist model aggressively promoted by corporate forces and allies over the past decades


While African countries bear little responsibility for these crises, they are suffering its worst effects, and they also lack the means for countering the immediate and inevitably longer term effects.   There is no certainty as to how long it will take to recover from the crisis.   




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Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) attending the 2009 Annual Review and Strategy Meeting of the Africa Trade Network (ATN) in Accra, have called for stimulus packages for domestic industries in order to put them on the path of industrialization.

The leaders of the CSOs, who spoke to CITY & BUSINESS GUIDE in various interviews yesterday at the opening of the meeting, emphasized the need for African governments to take their destinies into their own hands by providing incentives to support the domestic economy.


Since the global financial crisis started last year, various Developed countries such as the USA, Britain, Japan and Germany have provided stimulus packages and incentives for local banks and companies.


For instance, the US government provided an incentive package to General Motors, which employs many Americans in order to avert the company’s collapse.

Soren Ameron of Action Aid Kenya told this paper that prescriptions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not help African governments.

Recently, the IMF demanded some strict conditions for some loans that it approved for Ghana.


Ameron said: “We need African leaders to be more aggressive in questioning the basic financial economic policies from these Bretton Wood Institutions and we need to build our local industries.”


Tetteh Homeku, Programmes Manager of Third World Network, shared similar sentiments, adding “there were three broad areas that needed to be addressed and they include addressing trade and exports financing gaps, reviewing policies like the Economic Partnership Agreement, and refraining from pressures from the IMF and the World Bank.”


“Africa is peculiar to this crisis because of the structure of its economies, if the crisis stays for five years or more, we would have to create a proper industrial strategy,” Homeku reiterated.


Mr. Homeku further expressed dissatisfaction with policies of the World Bank and IMF, saying “it will not help the continent; this is not the time to talk about tightening spending and targeting inflational framework.”


He also chastised the World Bank for not lowering its interest rate, thus denying businesses and individuals from borrowing from the bank.”

Rangarirai Machemedze from Zimbabwe also called on local governments to support the domestic capacities of industries in order to make them more competitive, adding that agriculture needed more support.

He also called for the diversification of commodities and to add value to various products.

By Charles Nixon Yeboah & Andrew Liu



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Ebenezer Hanson

The World Bank over the last 15 years has been moving towards a policy of greater transparency by making more information available to stakeholders.

The Executive Directors and the Bank Management have periodically reviewed the policy and expanded its scope: for example, in 1993, 2001 and 2005 the Board approved proposals to allow public access to additional documents. The result has been a fairly wide-reaching disclosure policy. It is in this spirit that the Bank in 2009 is rethinking its disclosure policy.

Last week the Bank, as part of a global consultation process, organized a forum in Accra to seek the views on the proposed policy revision from a wide range of stakeholders including civil society organizations, academia and the media, among others. In an approach paper, "Toward Greater Transparency: Rethinking the World Bank's Disclosure Policy", which formed the basis for the deliberations at the forum, the Bank acknowledges the limitations of the existing so-called "positive list", hence its decision to dispense with it.

The "positive list" outlines the categories of information that are normally available to the public, subject to certain "constraints". The approach paper notes, "Even though the policy contains provisions for considering the disclosure of information that is not listed, the existence of such "positive list" creates the perception that there is a presumption against the disclosure of information that is not on that list."

Ms. Shakuntala V. Gunaratne of the World Bank explains that although the Bank is doing away with the "positive list", it will maintain a clear list of "exceptions" that is easier to interprete and implement. "The Bank would deny access to information for which there is a compelling reason for confidentiality- for example, personal information about staff; confidential or sensitive information given to the Bank by member countries and the other third parties with the express understanding that such information would not be disclosed; security information; or information that is subject to attorney- client privilege."

However, it is the lack of explicit principles defining what should be categorized as confidential or strictly confidential that has become the source of dissent. Speaking on "The Nexus between World Bank Disclosure Policy and Freedom of Information" at the forum, a member of the Coalition on Freedom of Information, Mr. Sheshe Akoto-Ampaw, feared that the non- publication of the principles could be fertile grounds for arbitrariness on the part of officials tasked with the release of information. "The Bank should spell out the principles else they will become tools for arbitrariness", he insisted. He adds that, "All stakeholders should assist the Bank so that the rules applicable to non-disclosure will not undermine or subvert the very goals the Bank is seeking to achieve with the new policy."

Mr. Akoto-Ampaw also disagreed with the proposal that certain country-owned information would be treated confidential. "Is it because the country owns the information then it becomes confidential or there will be rules governing it?" he asked. His divergent stance is conceived in the idea that "information owned by government is owned on behalf of the citizens and since governments are accountable to the people, the information must be made known to the people." He was also uncomfortable with certain historical information which will be exempted at all times describing it as "problematic".

While welcoming the establishment of an appeal mechanism with the power to review a previous decision refusing a request for a piece of information, he was concerned with the composition of the appeal committee.





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