The head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) says economic growth numbers in sub-Saharan Africa are encouraging, but further work in areas like conflict prevention and resolution and securing proper foreign investment contracts is still needed. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

Kemal Dervis says sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing the most overall growth in decades at a rapid rate. He says gross domestic product growth was up 5.6 percent on average from 2004 to 2006.

By the end of this year, Dervis says he expects overall growth to be around six percent. He says that will be quite a bit more than one percentage point higher than the world average. "In terms of the global context, for the first time in a very long time, sub-Saharan Africa is actually growing faster than the world economy," he said.

Speaking at the United Nations headquarters Tuesday after a recent trip to the continent, Dervis said conflict prevention and resolution are top priorities if nations in the region want to attract more foreign investors. He said areas free of conflict are growing at a faster rate, partly due to foreign investment.

The U.N. official says foreign investment is crucial to sub-Saharan growth and it plays an important role in infrastructure, mining, oil and other sectors. But, he says, governments in Africa have to negotiate foreign investment contracts that are more advantageous to the local people and the country. "Sometimes, two or three well-negotiated contracts are financially equivalent to maybe the whole of the foreign aid that goes into an African country," he said.

Dervis says well-negotiated contracts should spur the local economy and provide jobs and revenue in the country, rather than just offer tax incentives to foreign companies.