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Africa lagging on growth targets: UN

Published: 15-JAN-07

ADDIS ABABA - Africa is unlikely to meet millennium goals for poverty reduction by 2015 despite prospects for economic growth of more than 5% this year, a UN report has said.

The UN's World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007 said forecast overall economic growth in Africa of some 5.6% in 2007 represented a "major turnaround from previous decades of economic stagnations".

But the report, published in the Ethiopian capital, said the continent was still well below its development targets.

"Africa's growth remains insufficient to achieve development goals that will appreciably reduce poverty and improve living conditions on the continent," it said.

"Most African countries have been unable to sustain sufficiently high growth rates over the medium term."

It said that from 1998 to 2006, only seven countries out of the 52 monitored by the UN's Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) achieved an average real gross domestic product growth rate of more than 7%.

But this growth - skewed by strong gains in oil-producing countries - had not always translated into jobs as required to achieve real progress in the fight against poverty, it said.

ECA commerce, finance and economic development director Hakim Ben Hammouda said growth rates of 7% were the minimum for Africa to halve its poverty rates by 2015, and this growth would have to be shared evenly.

"This is not the case today," he told journalists at the launch of the report.

He said Africa's share of international trade had stagnated at about 2%, which was "weak".

"This situation must change and the African countries must develop their industrial sector, their industries of transformation," he said.

According to the report, other indicators showed that Africa had a long way to go in terms of basic infrastructure which is vital for development.

"Africa has a road density of less than seven kilometres per 100 square kilometres, compared to 12 kilometres in Latin America and 18 kilometres in Asia. And despite a substantial endowment in energy sources, less than 30% of the African population has access to electricity," it said.

"The lack of efficient infrastructure severely hampers Africa's ability to achieve high and sustainable growth rates, which in turn are a critical condition for achieving national development goals."


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