(Embargoed for release at 2301 GMT, Sunday Sept. 12)
By Adrian Croft
LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Rich countries should pay forAfrican governments to get advice on negotiating the best dealsfor exploiting their natural resources, a panel set up by formerBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday.
The Commission for Africa, which includes serving and formerAfrican leaders and financial figures among its 17 members, alsocalled on donor governments to provide an extra $10 billion-$20billion a year to help Africa adapt to climate change.
Five years after the commission's initial report helpedfocus international efforts to boost development in the poorestcontinent, the panel issued a new report praising the progressAfrican countries had made on the economy and on increasingspending on health, education and agriculture.
But it said much remained to be done.
Despite average annual growth rates for Africa of sixpercent for much of the past decade and a quadrupling of tradeand foreign investment, most Africans had yet to feel thebenefits of economic growth, it said.
While some African countries were on track to meet some ofthe U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aimed atdrastically reducing poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015,progress needed to be broader and faster, it said.
It urged African governments to ensure strong growth reducedpoverty among ordinary Africans.
Donors were falling short of their aid pledges and progresson reforming international trade rules had been dismal, it said.
The commission urged donor countries to support a fund tohelp African governments get access to the best legal andtechnical advice so they could "negotiate deals on theexploitation of their countries' natural resources that will beof greatest benefit to their population."
SCRAMBLE FOR RESOURCES
Demand for African oil and other commodities, particularlyfrom fast-growing China, has helped drive growth and investmentin Africa. However, there is a widespread perception thatcommodities riches often benefit the elite rather than the poor.
The panel urged other rich countries to follow the U.S. leadby making it mandatory for oil, gas and mining companies listedon their stock exchanges to disclose what they pay foreigngovernments for the right to extract natural resources and tomake it an offence to import illegally sourced timber.
The commission said African governments must act quickly todraw up strategies to tackle climate change and said they wouldneed tens of billions of dollars a year in additional fundingfrom rich countries to confront this "massive challenge".
The Commission for Africa includes former British primeministers Blair and Gordon Brown, Ethiopian Prime Minister MelesZenawi, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, South AfricanPlanning Minister Trevor Manuel, Botswana central bank GovernorLinah Mohohlo and activist and musician Bob Geldof.
The commission's original report, published in March 2005,made ambitious proposals to cut African countries' debts, makeworld trade fairer, boost aid and eradicate disease.
The report helped pave the way for the agreement among Groupof Eight leading industrial nations at the July 2005 summit inGleneagles, Scotland, to more than double aid to Africa.
The commission's new report was released shortly beforeworld leaders meet at the United Nations from Sept. 20 to 22 toreview progress on the Millennium Development Goals. (Editing by Charles Dick)