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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 far below the average.

Governmence problems were on show 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 expoerts of commodities — sometimes single commodities — rather than diversifying in manufacturing or other value-added industries, the report added.