Daily Dispatch

Disparity is holding Africa back – Annan

Report says the continent needs to address inequality urgently


AFRICA’S strong economic growth trajectory is at risk because of rising inequality and the marginalis­ation of whole sections of society, according to the 2012 Africa Progress Report.

Launched on Friday by the African Progress Panel (APP), the report said the region would increase the pace of its growth well beyond 5% over the next two years, but challenges required immediate attention.

Kofi Annan, chair of the APP, said in the report that “disparitie­s in basic life choices – for health, education and participat­ion in society – are preventing millions of Africans from realising their potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process”.

The report said that Africa had seven of the world’s fastest growing economies, with 70% of Africa’s population living in countries that had averaged economic growth rates in excess of 4% over the past decade. However, it said most countries were not on track to achieve the Millennium Developmen­t Goals (MDGS) by 2015, because of slow progress in areas such as child nutrition, child survival, maternal health and education.

The need for equitable growth is all the more critical because of Africa’s “profound demographi­c shift”, which will see the continent’s population double in three decades and continue to rise into the second half of the 21st century.

The report called for a “relentless focus” by policymake­rs on jobs, justice and equity, to ensure sustainabl­e and shared growth.

Failure to generate equitable growth could result in “a demographi­c disaster”. Africa’s government­s and developmen­t partners must urgently draw up plans for a big push towards the 2015 MDGS, the report said.

The challenges that demanded urgent government action included:

Rising youth unemployme­nt, meaning skills needed to be raised and rural jobs needed to be created;

In the absence of a concerted effort to raise smallholde­r agricultur­e productivi­ty, Africa would remain vulnerable to food security crises. “Land grabs” by foreign investors and speculator­s was a major threat requiring greater regulation;

A “twin crisis” in access to education and learning, with 30 million children out of school and many of those in school failing to master basic literacy, meaning Africa was ill-equipped to generate jobs and take its place in a knowledge-based global economy. This required a stronger focus on education and appropriat­e funding mechanisms;

Africa had a weak voice in areas such as trade, finance and developmen­t assistance, and aid remained vitally important.

Caroline Kende-robb, executive director of the APP, said: “Africa is rising and African economies are growing faster than those of almost any other region in the world. However, trickle-down growth is not benefiting enough people.

“Indeed, benefits measured by poverty reduction, maternal health and childhood survival fall far short of what Africans have a right to expect. The report calls for renewed focus on jobs, justice and equity to ensure Africa’s impressive economic growth is translated into shared growth for all Africans,” Kende-robb said.

Annan said the overall message of the report was “positive”.

“Africa is on its way to becoming a preferred investment destinatio­n, a potential pole of global growth, and a place of immense innovation and creativity.

“But there is a long way to go – and Africa’s government­s must as a matter of urgency [look at] those who are being left behind.

“I believe Africa and its leaders can rise to this challenge,” he said.

“If they do, Africa will become more prosperous, stable and equitable. This is a prize which we all, wherever we live, will share.” — I-net Bridge

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