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Financial Officials Paint Bright Economic Future for Africa

  • Lisa Bryant

Top financial officials are painting a bright economic future for Africa overall - but warn the continent needs better financial management.

After weathering the world financial downturn, the economies of many African countries are expected to pick up this year. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projects an average growth of 4.5 percent for the continent in 2010 and 5.2 percent next year. But recovery will be uneven across countries and sectors.

Still Stefano Manservisi, who heads the European Commission's department dealing with Africa, summed up the overall optimism of participants at a conference at the French finance ministry in Paris. "Africa is showing signs of resilience and in 2010 all the projections are showing that (the economy) will take off again, in a scattered way, certainly not everywhere but certainly this will be the tendency," he said.

The Paris conference has gathered finance ministers, top economists and banking executives from Europe and Africa. Few dispute Africa has weathered - and continues to face - major challenges.

Mtuhli Ncube, vice-president and chief economist of the African Development Bank, said, "We've gone through a succession of crises - there was the food price hike, you saw social unrest in West Africa over rice prices and other things. And then an energy crisis. And then last year, we had the financial crisis, which we're still in right now."

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi also pointed to other weaknesses. African economies are dependent on vulnerable sectors like agriculture - and volatile commodity prices. "For me, I think all things being equal, the future is bright, but we need to put in place policies that make us more in control of our own destiny," he said.

Experts also warn Africa will be affected by the current Eurozone financial crisis. In Paris, they urged African governments to put in place stronger taxation, governance, infrastructure and investment policies. But, as the African Development Bank's Ncube puts it, the overall sentiment is "bullish" about Africa.