Finally, good news from Africa

By Ralf E. Kreuger


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Cape Town : Africa will probably show economic growth of 6.2 percent this year, a slower spread of the HIV/AIDS virus, fewer wars and kleptocrats.

"Africa is showing a clear upwards trend as a result of various reforms – we are looking towards the future positively," said Cynthia Carroll, the Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American, the world's third-biggest mining group.

Speaking during the World Economic Forum that ended here Friday, Carroll announced that Anglo American would invest $3.5 billion over the next five years in the continent.

Yet, there can be no mention of an all-clear signal for Africa, the world's biggest social welfare case. The second largest continent is rich in resources, but only accounts for 2.2 percent of world trade and still registers too little growth in order to reduce widespread poverty.

There is a lack of money for education, infrastructure and the health system. Two-thirds of 850 million Africans live from agriculture, who in view of climate change can barely produce enough to live on.

"And in many countries presently on a growth course, a lack of well-trained specialists is slowing down that trend," said John Page, Chief Economist for the Africa region at the World Bank.

Nevertheless, he predicted good outlooks for Africa and called on Africans to now link up the success in the mobile phone sector with the Internet.

Since 2003, the mobile phone sector has had annual growth rates of 40 percent in Africa. The continent's high mobile phone penetration was also creating the foundations for new paths in the financial sector, he said.

A model, which has proven successful mainly in Kenya, allows people without a bank account to complete money transfers per mobile phone.

A fund presented in Cape Town would in future give such a model a financial boost while former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan is to head an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a public charity initiative which aims to reduce hunger and poverty. It would at least render African farmers self-sufficient and secure their access to markets.

The reform partnership between Europe and Africa as promoted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany's President Horst Koehler was welcomed at the conference in Cape Town.

The seven leading industrial nations plus Russia, who form the Group of Eight, had promised during last week's G8 summit in Heiligendamm to double development assistance to $50 billion annually, half of which would benefit Africa.

However, the large number of delegations from India and China at the forum in Cape Town attracted far greater attention.

"We are trying to help Africa become part of globalisation," said Li Ruogu the president of China's Exim-Bank. The former member of the Chinese Central Bank put African-Chinese trade at $55 billion for 2006. The bank is supporting around 300 infrastructural projects in Africa including motorways, airports and hospitals.

Li said: "So far, all investments made in Africa have been successful."

Asked about human rights, he termed them "fantastic ideals" which came in the wake of economic development.