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CAPE TOWN, Jun 11 2009 (IPS) - Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan believes that Africa has not been affected as ‘‘profoundly’’ by the global economic crisis compared to other regions in the world – despite the number of Africans living in poverty having increased by 16 million in the last year and annual growth dropping from six to one percent.
The report states that Africa ‘‘cannot tackle the current situation alone. There is a shared responsibility for the crisis that requires joint response based on strong partnerships.’’
The APP was originally formed in 2007 to ensure that the international community’s promises to Africa are kept and aims to promote African development by tracking progress, drawing attention to opportunities and catalysing action.
While Annan is under the impression that ‘‘Africa has not been affected as profoundly by the economic downturn as other parts of the world’’, he acknowledged that ‘‘the crisis has underscored the continent’s vulnerability and is undermining the progress made over the past decade or so.’’
The World Bank expects average overall economic growth for Africa of one percent in 2009. This is a significant drop from 2008 when the annual growth was six percent.
The meltdown of the financial markets in 2008 and the global economic crisis caused a drop in demand for natural resources. As a result, prices of commodities such as copper and platinum plunged to all time lows.
The numerous African countries that rely on the export of these resources have been hit hard. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), over 60 percent of the copper and cobalt mines in the country’s Katanga province had shut down at the end of 2008, leaving over 300,000 people unemployed.
In South Africa, tens of thousands have lost their jobs when platinum prices dropped by over 40 percent.
‘‘In many aspects, the global crisis has further fuelled unemployment and inequality in Africa. These and other developments could trigger social tensions and political instability and could put not only livelihoods but also lives on the line,’’ Annan admitted.
Despite the challenges posed by the crisis, Africa’s leadership should also look at the opportunities that exist, with one of them being agriculture.
‘‘Africa has the potential to produce enough food to feed its population of 900 million and have enough left to export to other parts of the world,’’ stated Graça Machel, APP panellist and president of the Foundation for Community Development – a Mozambican non-governmental organisation working against poverty and social injustice in Africa.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank, shared Machel’s views. ‘‘Agriculture is one of the sectors that can get people out of poverty the fastest,’’ she declared.
She further believes that ‘‘eradicating poverty is necessary, as the number of Africans living in poverty has increased with 16 million over the past year. The economic crisis and surging food prices, which are interlinked, are the main culprits.’’
To curb this trend, Africa should put more effort in its food own production: ‘‘This is possible as at the moment only five percent of arable African land is utilised, so there is plenty left.’’
Grabbing the opportunities presented by the crisis is first and foremost the responsibility of African leaders. ‘‘We need stronger, extra bold leadership that is focused, sustainable, visionary and goes the extra mile,’’ Machel suggested.
Developing countries have to step up to the plate by delivering on their aid commitments. The APP also underlined that Africa’s development partners should not pull the plug on investments and financial assistance to Africa, despite the financial difficulties they may experience as a result of the crisis.
In 2008, the assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, representing rich countries, reported that the total net official development assistance (ODA) from the most developed countries had increased with 10.2 percent compared to the previous year.
With the global economic downturn, various development organisations warn that rich donor countries will cut back on aid. ‘‘We still have to see evidence of this,’’ alleged Marilou Jane Uy, director of the Africa finance and private sector development department at the World Bank.
Annan stressed that developed countries should deliver on their aid commitments that were made before the crisis. ‘‘More investments are needed in Africa, in particular when it comes to infrastructure. That is what is hampering the region the most when it comes to development.’’
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