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Africa needs 7pc growth to get anywhere

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 5- Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy needs to consistently grow at an average rate of seven percent per annum if it is to achieve a robust and broad-based development, a World Bank senior official has said.

While there is consensus that the continent is the next frontier for economic growth, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili opined on Monday that the ideal growth rate is one that has a trickledown effect and hinged on addressing poverty in these countries.

“The continent must begin to grow at these levels on a consistent basis. It has got to be a smooth pattern of upward trend of growth that would lift a larger population of the continent out of poverty,” she emphasised.

The continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has over the last three years been at a mean rate of 3.8 percent which has been above the world’s average.

It’s fairly quick recovery from the global recession stemmed from the fact that Africa is relatively insulated from the world economy and has also been building strong ties with the Asian tigers.

Further, it can be attributed to the improved political, social and economic structures in the region which can for instance be seen in the stable and prudent macroeconomic policies that it adopted and which have in turn supported its growth.

This stance is expected to continue putting the continent on a growth trajectory with the 2011/2012 economic rate estimated to rise to between 5.4 percent and 5.7 percent.

This however is not sufficient, the World Bank official maintained.

“Even though we celebrate the fact that Africa turned the corner in terms of growth, growth is not sufficient. The quality of the growth, the substance, the structure and content of the growth matters for how rapidly poverty can be tackled,” she reiterated.

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Towards this end, governments must begin to formulate quality and meaningful policies that can enable them to unleash the untapped opportunities for growth and economic transformation. This however needs to go hand in glove with diversification and governance efforts.

As a partner, the World Bank is looking to assist Africa achieve these objectives and hence the development of its new strategy titled ‘Africa’s future and World Bank support to it’ which is designed to enable the continent tackle its long-term (development) challenges.

The underlying principle of the new plan is to allow more people in the continent to participate in the decision making processes and eventually improve the quality of their life.

For the citizens to participate in public debates however, the media will have to play its role and drive the agenda in articulating micro-economic issues that can help in the formulation of sound policies.

“We believe that the quality of public debates about policies in countries will determine the next cycle of growth of the continent,” the VP stressed through a video conference.

For it for effectively play this role however, the media will need to have a full grasp of development and economic issues so that it can disseminate the same to the public and set the political engagement ball rolling.

Ms Ezekwesili was participating in a policy debate on the “Role of the Media in Development” which was jointly organised by among others the African Media Initiative, the World Bank Institute, the Unions of Journalists with the aim of highlighting the responsibility that the media has in the second wave of Africa’s transformation.

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