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ImageThe launch which was chaired by Barbara James, Managing Director of the Africa Venture Capital Association, included  John Page, Chief Economist of the Africa Region and World Bank Advisor Prof Ndulu, among others, speaking on progress made by African nations towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Africa Development Indicators 2006 is the latest annual report from the World Bank on the social and economic conditions across the continent.  The 2006 edition has been revamped to report Africa’s transformations and challenges more clearly.  This year, the publication consists of the main report, The Little Data Book on Africa 2006 and the World Bank Africa Database CD-Rom.

Growth across Africa

ImageAverage economic growth remains strong, exports are increasing and many countries are making tangible progress on delivering better health and education outcomes, says Page.  Overall growth across the Africa Region was reported to have risen from 2.4% in 1990 to an estimated 4.3% in 2005. This growth however has not been transformed into income for the population, particularly for those in rural areas. Extreme poverty, according to the report, has increased from 36% to 50% while inequality in the share of this growth has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor.  On the business front, Africa’s productivity can now be compared with that of Asia.

Investment Challenges

On investment climates however, John Page pointed out that it ‘is still tough to do business in Africa’. The speakers gave cognisance to the fact that infrastructure is a major constraint to business growth in Africa as institutional capacity, absence of Information and Communication Technology and low agricultural productivity all affect growth in business in Africa.

Primary enrolment has risen sharply, according to the report, but this does not mirror that of secondary and tertiary education. Mortality and life expectancy, on the whole, has regressed due to the prevalence of HIV AIDS and malaria, the latter still being the major cause of death in children under five years old.

Solutions: Accountability and Partnership

Delegates deliberating on the possible solutions to the issues identified in the book agreed that the Africa Peer Review Mechanism is laudable and goes in the right direction to encourage transparency and accountability of governments.

Professor Ndulu asserted the need for domestic accountability on the part of African governments and the need for governments to be more accountable to the people they serve rather than the donor community. People, he said, should demand accountability from their governments, and both private and public sectors should work in partnership to improve infrastructure that will drive business growth in Africa.

‘From Promises to Results’

Subtitled ‘From Promises to Results’, the report notes that the problems and constraints identified a decade ago as impeding Africa’s growth are still there.

It notes that the international community has demonstrated mixed results in living up to its financial commitments to Africa.  However, factors including changes in African leadership, progress in civil and private sectors taking ownership of development on the continent, coupled with international commitment to increase assistance, make Africa’s growth a real prospect.

Africa’s future will be significantly determined by what Africans do and the report’s main message is that “Africans and their development partners need to increase their focus on supporting the drivers of growth, sharing participation in and the benefits of growth and building capable states”.

For shared growth to become a reality, says the report, “the Decade of Africa must be about results not promises.”

For further information: www.worldbank.org/africa

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