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Report: African Conflicts Cost $300 Billion in Past 15 Years

11 October 2007

Fifteen years of conflict on the African continent have cost Africa an estimated $300 billion, which is the amount of foreign aid received during the same period. This is the assessment of a new report calling for a strong international treaty on the international arms trade. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

The report was compiled by the Oxfam donor organization and two arms control groups.

The Africa coordinator for the International Action Network on Small Arms, Joseph Dube, says the document underscores just how devastating war has been for Africa. "Some of the things that are coming out of the report indicate how some governments, individual leaders in Africa have benefited from these conflicts and how it [conflict] has undermined health, has undermined education," he said.

The report says that in the 15 years from 1990 until 2005 conflicts in 23 African countries cost nearly $300 billion, or an average of $18 billion per year.

It states that in these countries gross domestic product declined by an average of 15 percent per year.

When compared to the rest of the continent, war-ravaged nations recorded 50 percent more infant deaths and 15 percent more malnourished people. They also experienced a 20 percent reduction in adult literacy and a decline of five years in life expectancy.

The report says its figures underestimate the real toll, because they do not include the side-effects of war, such as the years of recovery needed and war's effect on neighbors through political insecurity, disruption of trade and the influx of refugees.

The report adds that 95 percent of the arms used in African conflicts are made outside the continent. Dube says as a result one effective tool would be a treaty regulating the international arms trade.

"We have seen a lot of international agreements coming out and most of them have not been legally binding and I think that is why a lot of governments and even traders in small arms have got away with murder," he said.

Delegates to the United Nations are discussing an arms trade treaty. Supporters want a strong treaty that will prohibit the transfer by governments or private individuals of arms that are likely to be used to commit human rights violations or violate international law such as an arms embargo.

They want to ensure that arms are sold only for purposes such as defense, policing, and peacekeeping.

A group of experts selected by the U.N. secretary-general is to meet next year to determine the scope of such a treaty.

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