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World Economic Forum on Africa Begins; Reports Examine African Development

The World Economic Forum on Africa – a three-day event, which this year is focusing primarily “on the world economic downturn and how to lessen its effect on African economies” – kicked off Wednesday in Cape Town, South Africa, VOA News reports. South African President Jacob Zuma opened the forum and said that developing nations do not have the resources to respond to the world recession in the same way as industrialized economies. Zuma said, “For most African countries, that are still highly indebted and dependent on aid for their revenues, the continuation of the current crisis will mean increased starvation, poverty and child mortality” (Bobb, VOA News, 6/10).

At the forum’s opening conference, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the managing director of the World Bank and co-chair of the forum, said that an additional 53 million people worldwide – 60 percent of whom are in Africa – have been pushed into poverty because of the global economic situation, This Day/ reports. Okonjo-Iweala “stressed the imperative of investing in agriculture,” This Day/ reports, and said, “So I think the issue has been how African countries can sustain that momentum in this time of crisis. Africa cannot afford to be seen as a victim in this crisis.”

African Competitiveness Report Says Economic Crisis Threatens African Progress

The forum’s opening session featured the African Competitiveness Report 2009, released jointly by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum (Ani, This Day/, 6/11). The report “showed Africa again languishing at the bottom of global competitiveness rankings because of bottlenecks in infrastructure, finance and communications,” the AP/Washington Post reports (Nullis, AP/Washington Post, 6/10).

Although there has been progress in recent years in developing Africa’s financial systems and increased economic stability, “the world economic crisis threatens to reverse years of financial progress in Africa as poor infrastructure, access to finance and trade barriers hamper competitiveness,” the report says, AFP/IC Publications reports (AFP/IC Publications, 6/10).

African Progress Panel Releases Report Highlighting Africa’s ‘Untapped’ Potential

The AP/Washington Post reports that a separate report indicated that “Africa would continue to need aid, but that it had enough potential and untapped resources to become a net food and energy exporter and to boost intercontinental trade” (AP/Washington Post, 6/10).

The annual report is put out by the African Progress Panel (APP), which is led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. According to Inter Press Service News Agency, the APP report says that Africa “cannot tackle the current situation alone. There is a shared responsibility for the crisis that requires joint response based on strong partnerships.”

Annan said, “Africa has not been affected as profoundly by the economic downturn as other parts of the world.” However, he added that “the crisis has underscored the continent’s vulnerability and is undermining the progress made over the past decade or so” (IPS, 6/11). AP/Washington Post writes of the progress: “The numbers of people living in poverty are leveling out, democracy and market reforms are entrenched in many countries, and great strides are being made against killer diseases such as AIDS and malaria” (AP/Washington Post, 6/10).

Graça Machel, an APP member and president of the Foundation for Community Development wrote an opinion piece in the Independent highlighting some of the report’s key points (6/11). IRIN/ published an article featuring highlights from the APP report (IRIN/, 6/10).

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