Wolfowitz: African Countries Need More Assistance

Paul Wolfowitz (search), who will soon take his first trip to Africa as head of the World Bank (search), said a case can be made for more development aid to the struggling continent.

African countries recognize the need to take responsibility for development projects and their results, and some countries, notably Nigeria, are taking on corruption in a "brave way," Wolfowitz said Tuesday.

"I think that makes the case for more development assistance, not less," said Wolfowitz, who took the helm of the 184-nation development bank last week. Before that, he was the No. 2 official at the Pentagon and a prime architect of the Iraq war.

Wolfowitz plans to visit four countries on his trip June 12-18: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and South Africa.

The World Bank is financing 334 development projects in Africa with a price tag of $16.6 billion.

Wolfowitz plans to tour some of the projects and talk to people the projects are intended to help. He also will meet with government officials and groups involved in development in the region.

Thirty-four of the world's 48 poorest countries are in Africa, the World Bank says. With 11 percent of the population, Africa accounts for only about 1 percent of the world's economic output, according to the development bank.

Before he arrives in Africa, Wolfowitz will first stop in London to attend a meeting of the finance ministers from the world's major economic powers, where the issue of helping Africa and other poor countries get out from the burden of crushing debt is likely to surface.

The United States and Britain have competing, debt-relief proposals; they differ on how debt forgiveness would be paid. Supporters of debt relief hope differences can be narrowed so that a deal can be finalized at a meeting of world leaders in early July in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Stepping up aid and debt relief to Africa is a top priority for British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search).

The Bush administration on Tuesday said it would provide $674 million for famine relief in Africa. Blair, however, has been pushing for broader assistance.

Wolfowitz said transforming Africa from a continent of despair to one of hope is a priority during his five-year term as World Bank president.

The trip, he says, is a way of "putting my travel where my mouth is."