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MENAFN - Arab News - 11/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab News) During its annual meeting held last month in Tokyo, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised upward its forecast for the economic growth in Africa at 5.7 percent next year instead of 5.3 percent in the last forecast. This comes at a time this year's GDP growth was lowered to 5 percent instead of 5.4 percent originally anticipated.

That looks like putting the continent in the forefront of attractive places for potential investors and make it the second high growth area, as was the case before with the Far Eastern countries that have been the darlings of investors for the past two decades.

Despite the impact of imported inflation because of high oil prices, the influence of the euro zone crisis has mainly affected the South African economy but, more or less, African economies did well when compared to the overall world economic performance over a three-year period. Africa on the whole registered an economic growth rate of 5.1 percent in 2011 rising to 5.4 percent this year and to 5.3 percent in 2013, according to the IMF spring forecast. The world economy stood at 3.9 percent last year, declining to 3.5 percent this year and rising to 4.1 percent in 2013.

A closer look shows that there are seven oil exporting countries led by Nigeria and Angola, whose economic growth amounted to 6 percent last year rising to 7.1 percent this year and dropping to 6.1 percent next year according to the IMF forecast. Another eleven countries, termed middle income ones led by South Africa, have their GDP registering 4.3 percent last year, dropping to 3.4 percent this year and back again rising to 4 percent next year, while 14 countries of low income led by Kenya and Ethiopia show their growth rate stabilizing during the three-year period under review at 5.8 percent, 5.9 percent and 5.9 percent respectively. And finally the last group comprising 12 fragile countries led by Burundi and Comoros show their economic growth shooting up from 1.7 percent last year to 6.6 percent this year to moderate at a lower rate of 5.8 percent next year.

Such growth that seemed to be out of reach and expectations over the past decade enjoys the possibility of sustainability and the picture looks more buoyant than definitely Europe and North America. In fact over the past decade statistics show that six out of the ten fastest growing world economies were in Africa. Not only that, Africa even managed to weather the 2008 financial crisis.

One of the main reasons for such a surge is the fact that Africa has the youngest population of 200 million people whose ages range between 15-24 years old, and according to a forecast that number could double by 2045. Moreover, this young population is getting better education, as around 42 percent of those in this age range have a secondary education and that rate is expected to rise to an impressive 59 percent by 2030.

However, though Africa managed to weather the financial crisis four years ago and is less affected by the euro zone debt crisis generally speaking, except in the case of South Africa, it stands the risk of being highly affected if the expected slowdown of Chinese and Indian economies is to take hold.

That tells about the new relationship where the old metropolitan centers of London, Paris, and Brussels of the colonies are no longer calling the shots as far as determining the economic development in the continent. On the other hand the new rising Asian powers are hungry for natural resources to feed their growing population and heating economies. The same applies to the Middle East oil producers who have the bulk of their oil exports head toward the Asian markets, where demand was and continues to be high.

Last month, the telecommunication tycoon of Sudanese origin Mohamed Fathi Ibrahim, better known as Mo Ibrahim, wrote that when he started to build an African mobile phone operation, "very few were willing to hear or believe that Africa was open for business. When I said time and again that you could do business in Africa without paying a dollar in bribes, I was met with disbelief."

He went on to add that the Hopeless Continent has become the "next investment frontier as investors consistently make returns impossible elsewhere."

Through the foundation called after his name that issues an index on good governance, he noticed that over the years the general trend in the continent has been positive given the observation that there is a marked decline in armed conflicts, sustained economic development and significant gains in human development - in education and health services.

Mo is a strong believer in the role of leadership in making such impacts. That is why he established six years ago the Leadership Award to reward excellence with 5 million, but that prize has been withheld three times so far for lack of suitable candidates. In addition to the role of the leadership, much awaits the people in terms of civil society and other organizations.


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