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May 27, 2017

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Fractious G-20 united by Africa development plans

BADEN-BADEN, Germany -- Ministers from the world's top economies heralded plans to boost development in Africa on Saturday, at an otherwise fractious G-20 gathering in Germany.

Berlin, which holds the presidency of the powerful nations' club this year, has made a hoped-for "Compact with Africa" a top priority for 2017.

Africa's future represents "a major geopolitical risk" but also a "chance," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters Friday as the meeting got under way in the genteel western spa town of Baden Baden.

In their final communique, G-20 ministers committed to "fostering private investment including in infrastructure," aiming at "sustainable and inclusive growth" for the continent.

It was "revolutionary" to see Africa so high on the agenda of the G-20 for the first time, said Senegal's Finance Minister Amadou Ba on the sidelines of the conference.

Along with counterparts from Ivory Coast, Morocco, Rwanda and Tunisia, Ba was invited to join the world's biggest financial powers at the table in Baden Baden.

South Africa is the only nation from the continent to hold G-20 membership.

"This G-20 initiative is well timed with its philosophy of suggesting rather than enforcing, as well as the idea of working together," Moroccan Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid said, emphasizing that it was not an "aid program."

While the conference has seen bitter wrangling over trade and climate commitments, consensus was easier to achieve on the Africa plan. The G-20 hopes to encourage private investment to build up jobs and infrastructure in African partner countries by offering political support.

But members are offering no financial commitment of their own. "Africa needs infrastructure, some efforts are already underway and should be sped up. We'll need to step on the accelerator and finally allow our countries to participate meaningfully in worldwide free trade," Senegal's Ba said.

To offer the continent a "hopeful and flourishing future, Africa needs the rest of the world by its side," European Union economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.

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