African nations agree on growth

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Maputo - African governments and the International Monetary Fund on Friday agreed on the urgent need to harness the continent's rapid economic growth, as unrest and a plethora of challenges temper exuberance about the continent's rise.

At a major meeting in Maputo, the IMF, finance ministers and central bank governors said a deeper “structural transformation” was needed so that ordinary citizens can benefit from the boom.

While sub-Saharan Africa is among the world's fastest-growing regions, pervasive poverty and recent serious unrest in Nigeria, South Sudan, the Sahel region and possible recession in South Africa have tempered previous exuberance about “Africa's rise.”

“Policies need to be designed in such a way to ensure that a surge in growth can also spur structural transformation,” according to the Maputo Joint Declaration, agreed following the meeting.

While government coffers have long been filled with the proceeds of mineral wealth, corruption, shady business contracts and mismanagement have meant little filters down to the man and woman on the street.

The continent still lacks adequate roads and energy supplies and needs more than $90 billion a year to improve infrastructure according to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

“Sub-Saharan Africa will need to redouble efforts to harness the opportunities offered by its abundant natural resources and ensure that their fruits are equitably shared,” the governments agreed.

Lagarde said that policy makers had no illusions about the scale of the problems that Africa still faces.

“There has clearly been a solid trend of growth over the last few years, and obviously surprising so during the financial crisis.”

“There are also big issues to be addressed, and potential risks on the horizon.”

But she insisted the picture was better today than in previous decades.

“You have to flashback, what was it like 10 years ago?”

That sentiment rings true in the summit's host country, Mozambique, where a brutal civil war that killed almost one million people has given way to rapid resource-fuelled growth.

The skyline of the Indian Ocean city is dotted with construction cranes, while new cars speed down new Chinese-built roads.

But Mozambicans complain jobs are still hard to come by and poverty is still all pervasive. - Sapa-AFP

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