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Africa economy remains strong in the midst of worries-WB

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By Robert Mugabe

newsdesk@greatlakesvoice.com

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at 4.8 percent in 2012, broadly unchanged from the 4.9 percent growth rate in 2011 and largely on track despite setbacks in the global economy, according to the World Bank’s new Africa’s Pulse, a twice-yearly analysis of the issues shaping Africa’s economic prospects.

Excluding South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to rise to 6 percent. African exports rebounded notably in the first quarter of 2012, growing at an annualized pace of 32 percent, up from the -11 percent pace recorded in the last quarter of 2011.

African countries have not been immune to the recent bout of market volatility stemming from the Euro Area crisis, as well as the growth slowdown that is occurring in some of the largest developing economies, in particular China, which remains an important market for Africa’s mineral exporters.

However, consistently high commodity prices and strong export growth in those countries which have made mineral discoveries in recent years, have fuelled economic activity and are expected to underpin Africa’s economic growth for the rest of 2012.

“A third of African countries will  grow at or above 6 percent with some of the fastest growing ones buoyed by new mineral exports such as iron ore in Sierra Leone and uranium and oil in Niger, and by factors such as the return to peace in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as strong growth in countries such as Ethiopia,” said World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Makhtar Diop. “An important indicator of how Africa is on the move is that investor interest in the region remains strong, with $31 billion in foreign direct investment flows expected this year, despite difficult global conditions.”

With the global economy still in fragile condition, Africa’s Pulse warns that Africa’s strong growth rates could yet be vulnerable to deteriorating market conditions in the Euro-zone. In addition, recent spikes in food and grain prices are a cause for concern. An unprecedented hot and dry summer in the United States, Russia and Eastern Europe led to reduced yields on both maize and wheat production worldwide. Africa’s Sahel region is already suffering from higher food prices, high rates of malnutrition and recurring crisis and insecurity.

 

Furthermore, swarms of desert locusts and the ongoing conflict in The Sahel also undermine the region’s food security. Countries like Mali and Niger are already suffering from locust invasions with a possibility that the swarm could move to neighboring countries such as Mauritania and Chad. This would aggravate the ability of families to find enough to eat in a region already grappling with drought and conflict.

Is Africa becoming ‘a middle-income’ continent?

In its wide-ranging analysis of new developments in Africa, the new report notes that after ten years of high growth, an increasing number of countries are moving into ‘middle- income’ status, defined by the World Bank as those countries achieving more than $1,000 per capita income.

Of Africa’s 48 countries, 22 states with a combined population of 400 million people have officially achieved middle-income status; while another 10 countries representing another 200 million people today would reach middle-income status by 2025 if current growth trends continue or with some modest growth and stabilization in countries such as Comoros and Zimbabwe.

Another seven countries which are home to 70 million people could reach this milestone if they created economic growth of seven percent growth over the coming years. For example, Sierra Leone could grow at this rate because of its recent expansion in mining. Ten African countries, which are ‘fragile’ and conflict- affected states, and with a combined population of 230 million people, have almost no chance to reach middle-income status by 2025.

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