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Johannesburg Summit Messages

September 09, 2002

On the bustling markets of Soweto, James Pinkerton wrote, "This is small business in action. This is sustainable development. This is the hope for a new South Africa" (Commentary, Sept. 5). I couldn't agree more.

However, in South Africa and throughout the developing world, there remains for the poor a lack of the essential financial services that foster small-business development.

During my trip to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, I spoke with a cab driver, explaining the purpose of my organization, the Microcredit Summit Campaign: to help bring small loans to poor families to start or expand their own businesses.

Instantly, he understood the concept and its value, telling me that South Africans desperately needed such services. "You must have 5,000 rand (about $500) to begin a bank account here," he explained. "So imagine how difficult it is for someone like me to get a loan. And I have a job, so think of what it's like for others with no steady income."

Access to financial services, particularly credit, is essential for small and micro-businesses to develop and flourish, yet donor agencies continue to ignore the reality Pinkerton observed in Soweto and the power of microfinance in the developing world.

Anna Oman

Washington, D.C.

*

Re "Powell Is Jeered at World Summit," Sept. 4: The heckling Secretary of State Colin Powell received in Johannesburg was well deserved. I have never been so ashamed and angered by my country's policies as I have during this regime of Prince George. The wanton disregard that this administration exhibits for other nations and the planet we share with them is an outrage. It sends representatives to meetings like the one in Johannesburg only to weaken environmental protection proposals, scuttling any attempt to promote renewable resources in order to further the interests of its fossil-fuel cronies.

I sincerely hope that enough international pressure can be brought to bear to bring President Bush into line, for the sake of the U.S. and the world. I urge my fellow citizens to speak out. We should not be silenced by disingenuous attacks on our patriotism.

Kimberley Edwards

Los Angeles

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