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EU earmarks a billion dollars to combat South African poverty

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(CAPE TOWN) - The European Union announced on Wednesday it would hand over 980 million euros (1,275 million dollars) to the South African government in the next seven years to help fund anti-poverty programmes.

"We want to work with South Africa ... through its own programmes to eradicate poverty," Lodewijk Briet, the European Commission ambassador to South Africa, told reporters in Cape Town.

"South Africa is an anchor country. Its stability in years to come ... is going to be determining for the stability of the region."

The money, to be divided among sectors like health and education, would go direct to South African government departments to spend on programmes identified in concert with the EU.

Spending would focus on areas such as training, research and continental peacekeeping, the ambassador added.

The EU has handed out hundreds of millions of euros to South Africa since the end of the apartheid system 13 years ago but Briet said the latest cheque could be the last of such magnitude as the country develops socially, economically and politically.

"By 2013 we will be 20 years into South Africa's post-apartheid dimension and I think by then the situation will have changed. I expect we will then move more toward doing things together in specific fields," he said.

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