Africa upbeat over economic prospects

African leaders revelled in their continent’s economic growth at the World Economic Forum on Africa on Wednesday, while warning that poverty and instability still posed threats to development.

Five presidents from across the continent were upbeat as they addressed the opening of the conference, attended by over 800 business and political leaders from across Africa, on how to make the best of economic opportunities.

South African President Thabo Mbeki brushed off questions about his concerns for the continent, saying he would rather be positive, while his counterparts from Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Kenya did the same.

“My view is that the African continent is evolving very well in the correct direction,” said Mbeki.

Positive growth has been recorded in 45 of 48 African countries, with an average of about 6% growth on the continent.

Mbeki said countries such as Burundi and Kenya, which had both been wracked by violence resolved through peace negotiations, sent a positive message about Africa’s capacity to confront its problems.

“Generally there is progress towards addressing this issue of peace, stability and reaffirming the democratic process,” he told delegates attending the three-day conference in Cape Town.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who said he would hand over power “smoothly and fairly” in six months when his term comes to an end, said Africa had immense opportunities from its natural resource wealth.

“We know that the continent abounds in all the resources that you need to grow and improve the quality of life of people,” he said, mentioning the “potential for diversified energy resources, fertile lands to support agriculture”.

Despite the optimism, leaders said extreme poverty and ongoing conflict in some nations remained problems.

“Without peace you can’t do anything. With peace there is hope to develop your country,” said Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader who said education was key to solving Africa’s problems.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika said Africa should help solve the world food shortage with its vast tracts of land.

“Let us recognise that we have all the wealth to enable us to transform our continent from poverty to prosperity.”

Having led his country from a crippling famine to a maize surplus three years running, Mutharika said greater international investment in agriculture was necessary in Africa.

Kenya’s new Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, said Africa did not need aid but investment, slamming those on the continent involved in bad governance and who blame colonialism for its ills.

“Africa, the richest continent in the world in terms of resources, but it is the poorest continent,” said the former opposition leader who came to power in a coalition government in April after his claims that elections were rigged sparked mass violence in the country.—Sapa-AFP


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