Chancellor begins African tour to launch battle against poverty

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Gordon Brown will fly into Africa today for a six-day diplomatic mission to launch Britain's plans to boost the fight against poverty during its presidency of the G8.

Gordon Brown will fly into Africa today for a six-day diplomatic mission to launch Britain's plans to boost the fight against poverty during its presidency of the G8.

Mr Brown will visit four nations in a trip likely to be seen as an attempt to reinforce his credentials as a prime minister in waiting. He will fly into the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, today before touring Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.

The tour marks a break from his routine visits abroad for meetings of world economic bodies. Heis due to have talks with senior ministers and heads of government including the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, the Kenyan President, Emilio Mwai Kibaki, and the Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa.

He will also chair meetings of the Commission for Africa, the British-sponsored body due to publish proposals in the spring for solving some of the continent's problems of disease, conflict, corruption and low economic growth.

The Chancellor will also visit some of the continent's poorest areas. His itinerary includes visits to schools and projects dealing with HIV and Aids.

Oxfam said the visit would increase pressure on industrialised countries to cancel Third World debt. Max Lawson, senior policy adviser at the charity, said: "Every week, the same number of people killed by the tsunami die from poverty in Africa. Rich countries must build on the generous response to the tsunami disaster and cancel debt, increase aid and reform trade for the poorest countries."

Mr Brown has made increasing Third World aid a personal mission, with proposals for an international bond scheme designed to double aid to Africa and other developing countries to $50bn (£27bn).

Before Christmas, the Chancellor stepped up his campaign for world leaders to back the International Finance Facility, a scheme designed to raise funds on the international markets against future aid donations from major economic powers.

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