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African Leaders Gather in Burkina Faso for Employment Summit - 2004-09-09

A summit on expanding employment opportunities and alleviating poverty continues for a second and final day in Burkina Faso. Dozens of heads of state from around Africa are trying to mount a coordinated effort to create jobs.

On the final day of the summit, the African heads of state are expected to draft an action plan on how to tackle the issues of unemployment and poverty on the world's poorest continent.

The plan intends to create eight million new jobs each year for the next decade. Its aim is to stop the economic slump on the continent and find ways to cope with the population growth.

The vast majority of Africans survive on less than a dollar a day and reside in rural villages, but many large cities lack the resources and infrastructure to cope with their rapidly increasing populations.

The director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rodrigo de Rato, says rich countries need to evaluate the pressures placed on less developed countries in the global market.

"Both rich and poor countries carry the responsibility in promoting the full integration of developing countries in the global trading system," said Rodrigo de Rato. "And we must also recognize that trade barriers in and among developing countries themselves remain too high."

The summit is being held in the landlocked west African nation of Burkina Faso, which the United Nations ranks at the bottom of a list of countries in terms of human development. The agricultural based economy depends on the exportation of cotton, which has to compete with U.S. and EU subsidies in the world market.

Mr. de Rato says the IMF is looking to promote peer review initiatives to allow the African Union, which is sponsoring the summit, and other regional bodies to take control and implement the action plan.

"Regional integration by providing important peer review mechanisms can play a valuable role in promoting sound economic policies and good investment climate," he said. "We are tailoring our work to support this objective by conducting regular surveillance discussions at the regional levels in Africa."

The action plan is also expected to outline ways for women to receive small micro-credit loans to start businesses. Although sub-Saharan Africa has registered a small amount of economic growth during the past two years, the quality of life for the majority of the population remains worse today than it was two decades ago.