African countries underline problem of extreme poverty during addresses to UN debate

Rosemary Museminali, Rwandan Minister of State for Cooperation, reminded delegates at the Assembly’s annual debate that 40 per cent of the world’s population – or about 2.5 billion people – live on less than $2 a day, and more than 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.“For sub-Saharan Africa, the statistics are even more staggering: in most cases 60 to 70 per cent of national populations live on less than $1 a day, while life expectancy at birth is less than 50 years,” she said.Mrs. Museminali said improving the standard of governance and raising the levels of official development assistance (ODA) from industrialized countries were critical if sub-Saharan Africa is to attain the eight MDGs, which were agreed upon at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000.But she said the most serious challenge is the surging price levels of key fossil fuels and the burden that is placing on African countries that have to import these energy sources, a theme adopted by Youssouf Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister, in his address.Mr. Ouedraogo said the recent jump in oil prices had pushed Burkina Faso towards developing bio-fuel technology using by-products from its cotton industry.Calling for a revamp of the international trade regime, he said the current system was not free or equitable and punished Burkinabe cotton producers.Lamenting the lack of progress towards the MDGs, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, voiced concern that the world is relying too much on the trickle-down effect to reduce poverty, “instead of taking a bottom-up approach.”The result is that “globalization does not seem to be living up to its promises,” Mr. Ramgoolam concluded, insisting that it must be transformed into a wider process so that everyone can share in its benefits, and not just the few.