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Economists Say World Financial Crisis Affecting Africa Long-Term


The crisis that has roiled world financial and stock markets has not directly affected most African nations. But African economists say the continent could experience considerable long-term repercussions as lending and investment activities tighten in the industrialized world. VOA's Scott Bobb has reports from Johannesburg.

African financial institutions so far have been spared the market collapses seen in the industrialized world. Economists say this is because African banks have not engaged in high-risk lending, especially in the housing market.

But the head of Pan-African Capital Holdings in Johannesburg, Wiseman Nkuhlu, says the crisis is likely to hurt African economies which had been growing an average of more than five percent a year.

"We are very concerned. The impact is not noticeable at the moment," Nkuhlu said. "But we are worried that the [investment] flows that have been responsible for the high levels of growth may actually decline in the coming years if the crisis continues."

Economists warn a recession in the developed world will lower demand for Africa's exports and hurt foreign investment.

Also, Africans working abroad may reduce remittances, the money they send home to their families.

These developments are likely because African economies are unavoidably tied to the global economy.

"We will get a bit of everything, a bit of the financial fallout, a bit of the stock exchange fallout, a bit of the recession in each of these countries, and less remittances, less investment, etc.," said Kenyan economist Robert Shaw..

Shaw says funding for development and social programs is also likely to fall as budgets are tightened in Africa and in the international donor community.

But economist Nkuhlu is hopeful the industrialized nations will remain dedicated to improving the quality of life in Africa.

"The commitments and the relationship between the developed world and Africa in particular has matured, [and] reached a point where the commitments are likely to be sustained even under these difficult circumstances, possibly at slightly reduced levels," Nikuhlu said.

A recession could have some positive effects. Prices for food, fuel and other basic goods may fall, easing the stress on household pocketbooks. And interest rates may decline, lowering the cost of borrowing.

Yet Shaw warns that while almost everyone in the world will feel the effects of the crisis, the poor will be hit the hardest.

"And those people [poor] have already been impacted very negatively this year by what happened earlier in the year, by the massive inflation, the price of food, the price of transport," Shaw said. "All these basics have galloped ahead. So anything that happens from this will impact them even worse."

Experts say the greatest threat to most Africans has always been hunger and poverty - and the investment needed to feed people and create jobs, they say, is just a fraction of what is being spent to ease the global financial crisis.

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