The World Economic Forum (WEF) began a meeting on Africa on June 13 with warnings that the continent faces being left further behind as its growth rates fail to match those elsewhere in the world. Africa is forecast to grow 6.2% in 2007, having achieved 4.9% over five years from 2001 and 5.5% last year alone, said a joint report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), World Bank and African Development Bank.
"Although there have been improvements, the problem is that the rest of the world is moving faster," said WEF senior economist Jennifer Blanke. International Monetary Fund statistics put Chinese growth at 10% last year, India at 8.4% and Russia at 6.4%.
The latest Africa competitiveness report, released on the first day of the 17th WEF meeting on Africa, expressed doubt that the continent's growth trajectory would be sustainable. Much of the growth is being fuelled by variable external factors such as high commodity prices, debt relief and a favorable international economic environment. High growth rates would have to be sustained over decades for Africa to raise the living standards of its people, the joint report argued.
"Present growth rates in Africa, although high by historical standards, are still short of the estimated 7% annual growth that would be required to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty rates in the region by 2015," it said. The report measures the competitiveness of 29 African states among a sample of 128 countries from around the world.
North Africa needed to work on technological advancement and market efficiency, while most countries south of the Sahara needed to start with the basics such as upgrading infrastructure and improving health systems.World Bank chief economist John Page said the stereotype of Africa as a non-competitive continent was "simply not true". "It remains a challenge to realize the promise of the world-class enterprises we found in every (African) country and in practically every industry," he said. To this end, the continent needs good policies and institutions and must invest heavily in physical infrastructure and human resources.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007