Growth should benefit Africa's people: Annan
Africa needs strong leadership to harness the region's economic growth to benefit the people of the world's poorest continent, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said on Thursday.
"The primary responsibility for progress remains with ourselves, with African leaders and their population who need to translate the continent's wealth into results and for the benefit of the people," Annan said.
"On one hand we've seen encouraging success stories, but there is no doubt that we have a lot to be done and there are many challenges ahead," he said in presenting an annual report on the continent's development at the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The Africa Progress Report compiles an overview of the continent, and gives a scorecard to show countries' efforts in reaching targets such as maternal health, education and hunger.
Investor interest in Africa is growing, as the International Monetary Fund predicts that sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product will grow by 5.5 percent this year and 5.8 percent next year.
Seven African countries are expected to be among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world this year: Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.
But the overall strength masks huge disparities among nations, with growth in Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and Ivory Coast expected to be far below the average.
Governance problems remain in countries such as Somalia, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe while political progress in many others looked fragile, the report said.
Despite the strong overall growth, many countries rely too heavily on exports of commodities -- sometimes single commodities -- rather than diversifying in manufacturing or other value-added industries, the report added.
"To the detriment of hundreds of millions of Africans, the continent's strong economic growth has not translated into widespread job creation and poverty reduction," said the report, which also cites rising inequality between rich and poor.
"The need for greater progress in urgent."
Speaking at the launch, activist Graca Machel, whose husband is South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, said there was no single formula to solve the continent's challenges.
"The reality is that the picture is mixed, not only from country to country but within the countries themselves," she said.
Some countries had shown massive spurts in growth but failed to address anti-poverty needs, like basic housing, water and health, she said.
"In terms of growth, they've made a huge leap ahead, but look at the social indicators -- they are among the worst. So growth alone is not a response."
Despite political positives such as the south Sudan referendum and moves towards democracy in north Africa, conflicts remain a problem with unrest in nine countries affecting one fifth of the continent's people.
"Most security challenges in Africa continue to be a direct result of weak or poor governance," said the report.
The report also sounded an alarm over rising global food prices, warning that some countries could face social unrest if subsidies and price controls were no longer affordable.
© 2011 AFP