Africa woes discussed at WEF

01 July 2008

The lack of requisite skills and the shortage of power will likely be the main stumbling blocks to economic growth in Africa, senior delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) said.

The African continent has averaged 5 per cent economic growth over the past five years, and although the future outlook is “bright”, power, energy and skills shortages are the main challenges.
“I’m not so optimistic about the growth outlook,” said Austine Ometoruwa, president and chief executive officer of Africa Finance Corporation in Nigeria.
“Without electricity it is going to be challenging to sustain economic growth and we need that to drive Africa out of poverty,” he said.
Countries such as South Africa and Zambia have experienced power shortages that have disrupted the key mining industry since the beginning of the year.
Electricity shortages also threaten to slow development and drive up project costs in Congo, one of the world’s richest copper and cobalt regions. He Wenping, director of African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said China remained optimistic about Africa’s outlook and would continue investing in infrastructure.
Forum delegates said the continent also needed to educate and train its people in order to propel economic growth.
South Africa’s Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said while Africa’s future remained “bright,” it hinged on politicians’ commitment to economic policies that promoted growth.
“There’s no substitute for leadership and it has to go beyond the tenure of government,” Manuel said.
“All leaders need to commit to sustainable growth. The core of economic development is something all politicians need to sign on to.”
South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki said while political instability in countries such as Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Somali needed to be addressed, the continent was making progress.
Kenya, once perceived as the most politically stable country on the continent, descended into violence that killed at least 1,300 and displaced 300,000 after the disputed December elections.
“What happened in Kenya is not unique, it is a problem of bad governance. The richest continent is the poorest, and we keep blaming colonialism for it,” said Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose opposition party formed a coalition government with President Mwai Kibaki after the violence.
“At independence Kenya’s economic indicators were equal to those of South Korea, but 45 years down the road, Korea’s economy is 40 times that of Kenya. The mediocrity of leadership is across the continent,” Odinga said. Ghanaian President John Kufuor said Africa could only compete with the world on an equal footing if it united and was led by an enlightened and accountable leadership.

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