South Africa criticises Blair at Davos

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair's quest for a legacy took a knock in Davos yesterday after African leaders paid short shrift to the Prime Minister's call for a big push from the G8 member countries to improve the standard of education in the continent.

"I'd like to see a big push on education to give a sense that it's not just a sum of money but definite results," said Mr Blair. But Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the Liberian president, and Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, both said Africa needed more investment in its infrastructure if the continent was to move forward.

"We need investment in infrastructure, not education ... real infrastructure that will enable us to attract private investment," said Ms Johnson-Sirleaf. She also asked for Liberia's debt to be wiped out. Her comments, made at a discussion entitled "Delivering on the promise of Africa", were echoed by Mr Mbeki who urged the G8 not to add new programmes when it meets in Germany in June. "We don't have the capacity to do the things that we said we would do," he said.

Germany's economic minister Bernd Pfaffenbach said Africa needed "more capacity building". He added: "What's lacking is sustainable economic growth. This needs more private investment." He said there was no reason that Africa could not mimic the economic marvel in Asia given the opportunity.

Mr Blair said it was "important the momentum is redoubled again for the G8 meeting". There are fewer sessions devoted to Africa at this meeting of the World Economic Forum than in years past. But Gordon Brown, the Chancellor denied Africa had moved down the agenda.

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