TOYAKO, Japan (Reuters) - The Group of Eight rich nations will seek to convince a skeptical Africa on Monday that it is living up to promises to double aid to the world's poorest continent.
Underlining the importance of the issue, the G8 has invited seven African leaders to join the opening day of its annual summit, taking place at a plush hotel on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Climate change, record oil prices and a deteriorating global economy add up to a crowded agenda for the three-day meeting, but President George W. Bush, who has made aid to Africa a personal priority, said he would hold fellow leaders to account on that issue.
"We'll be very constructive in the dialogue when it comes to the environment -- I care about the environment -- but today there's too much suffering on the continent of Africa, and now's the time for the comfortable nations to step up and do something about it," Bush, banging the lectern for emphasis, said on Sunday at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
At its 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 agreed to double aid to Africa by 2010 as part of a wider drive to alleviate global poverty.
But a report last month by the Africa Progress Panel, which was set up to monitor implementation of the Gleneagles commitments, said that under current spending plans the G8 will fall $40 billion short of its target.
Japan vigorously rebutted a media report that the G8 was backsliding.