THREE weeks ago in this space I commented on Paul Wolfowitz's decision to visit Africa within a week or two of taking up his new role as president of the World Bank. I quoted his statement that, Nothing would be more satisfying than to feel at the end of however long a term I serve that we played a role in changing Africa from a continent of despair to a continent of hope, and I also questioned whether he would feel able to take an independent line on development aid from that favoured by Mr Bush. After all, Mr Wolfowitz had been one of the most prominent advocates and supporters of the Iraq war and hardly seemed the kind of person likely to change overnight from hawk to dove. Well, Mr Wolfowitz has been to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and South Africa and at the weekend gave a London press conference at which he declared that he had seen enough to want to urge the Bush administration to help fund a big aid push for the African continent, adding that he had seen more reasons for Africa to become a continent of hope. Whether Mr Bush will be pleased that Paul Wolfowitz has been so convincingly converted to the cause of aid for Africa remains to be seen; only two weeks ago he told Tony Blair that the United States would not sign up to the G8 proposal of doubling aid to Africa, yet here is the man he put into the World Bank actually entertaining the idea that the the US should aim to meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for development aid. Perhaps the most significant thing that Mr Wolfowitz said at his press conference was that he regards Tony Blair's intention to put Africa at the top of the G8 agenda as a gift from heaven. He will be in President Bush's party at the G8 Gleneagles summit and his newfound dedication to Africa could prove to be influential.
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