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Experts Predict Risky Climate Ahead for Continued Economic Growth in Africa

"Urgent action" by African governments will be needed to sustain the continent's economic growth. That assessment comes from experts at the World Economic Forum, as more than 800 business leaders gather to discuss Africa's future. For VOA, Terry FitzPatrick reports from Cape Town, South Africa.

To set the tone for this week's African business debate, the World Economic Forum has published a good-news, bad-news analysis.

Economist Irene Casanova says there is plenty of good news.

"I think we need to be very positive. Since 2000, 45 of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have achieved real growth averaging five percent," she said.

Still, Casanova's team of analysts says Africa is a continent "at risk." Their report says growth has been uneven, fueled largely by exports of oil, minerals and food instead of broad-based industrial manufacturing. As well, the report says African politicians and their business associates have become extremely wealthy, while more than 500 million Africans still subsist on less than $2 a day.

The experts say this leaves Africa especially vulnerable to shocks caused by rising food prices, a changing climate, global economic downturns and periods of political instability. Casanova says these risks must all be addressed at once.

"All the risks that we highlight, and all the risks and opportunities actually, they are immensely interconnected," she said. "Climate change, food crisis, conflict, social unrest - it's extraordinary now. And it makes the situation quite complex."

Casanova's team recommends greater emphasis on diversifying Africa's economy and improving the productivity of farms. The business leaders gathered here, including several presidents and heads of government, will spend three days discussing just how that can be done.