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Sub-Saharan Africa is poorer than 20 years ago: UN report

Sub-Saharan Africa is poorer than 20 years ago: UN report

Declining aid and terms of trade, mounting debt, and ineffective adjustment policies have left sub-Saharan Africa poorer than two decades ago, according to a new report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The report, titled Economic Development in Africa: Performance, Prospects and Policy Issues, says bolstering growth and halving poverty in Africa over the next 15 years will require a dramatic increase in aid and trade for the continent.

With a projected growth rate of just over 3 per cent for the next decade, Africa's fortunes are unlikely to improve, the report says. This figure, marginally above population growth, is only half of the 6 per cent target set by the UN 10 years ago to tackle the continent's economic and social challenges.

The study recommends financing development through a doubling of aid flows, a bolder approach to debt relief (including a standstill on debt repayment), an independent assessment of debt sustainability, a full review of all current agreements and practices in the international trading system, and a critical review of adjustment and poverty reduction policies for raising growth and bettering income distribution.

According to the report, one of the major reasons for the region's marginalization is that 80 per cent of the sub-continent's exports consist of oil and non-oil commodities whose prices have been declining relative to exports from the rest of the world. If the terms of trade had stayed at 1980 levels, Africa's share of world exports would be double today's figure. African growth per annum could have been 1.4 percentage points higher, raising per capita income to a level 50 per cent above the current figure.

Over all, per capita income in Africa in 2000 was 10 per cent below the level reached in 1980. Despite some improvement in agricultural growth rates in recent years, 28 million Africans are facing severe food shortages this year, the report states. Two decades of sub-standard growth have hit the poorest 20 per cent the hardest, their incomes dropping by 2 per cent a year.