African economic growth still strong but development and aid lag: UN report

African economic growth still strong but development and aid lag: UN report

African economies are forecast to grow by an average of 6.2% in 2008 after a strong 2007, but the struggle against extreme poverty and international support for systemic improvement lag behind, according to a United Nations report released today.

The latest edition of the Economic Report on Africa (ERA 2008), the annual joint publication of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU), says that growth on the continent was driven mainly by robust global demand and high commodity prices.

Other growth factors in Africa include continued consolidation of macroeconomic stability and improving macroeconomic management, greater commitment to economic reforms, increased private capital flows, debt relief and increasing non-fuel exports, the report says.

It adds that Africa has also witnessed a decline in political conflicts and wars, especially in West and Central Africa, though peace remains fragile in some parts of the continent and growth performance varied sharply across countries and regions.

Key challenges to Africa's growth in 2008 include the risk of sharper slowdown in the United States economy, a fall in global commodity demand and prices and high oil prices.

In addition to political instability in some countries, inefficient public infrastructure and unreliable energy supply at the national level as well as poor integration of transportation and energy networks at the regional level continue to pose economic constraints.

This year’s report, under the title Africa and the Monterrey Consensus: Tracking Performance and Progress, also assesses progress in the implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on international commitments for development in Africa.

Debt relief, one area of the consensus, has made much progress, the report found. However, very limited progress has been made in other core areas such as mobilizing domestic and international resources for development and promoting trade as a development engine.

The establishment of donor groups and an annual African Ministerial Conference to monitor progress on the consensus is a bold step forward in this area, the report concludes.

“It is hoped that these monitoring mechanisms will help to turn the promises made by development partners into deeds. The implementation of these commitments is important for Africa to achieve meaningful results in poverty reduction and lay the foundation for a brighter future for its peoples,” ECA said in a press release on the report’s launch.