Africa On the Rebound, Says World Bank

Nairobi — After decades of setbacks, an increasing number of African countries are lifting a good fraction of their citizens above the poverty line and sending more children to school.

But the region still needs help from wealthy nations to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by improving governance, accelerating and sustaining growth and job creation, delivering services, and fighting poverty, according to a World Bank report released on Monday.

The good news, according to the report, is that primary school enrolment is up, HIV/Aids prevalence and child mortality rates are falling and the gender gap has started to shrink in several countries.

The institution said many African countries have lifted significant percentages of their citizens above the poverty line and might well be on course to the MDG target of halving poverty by 2010.

The annual World Bank publication, African Development Indicators (ADI) 2006 identified countries leading in this turnaround race as Senegal, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde.

"Africa is today a continent on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes," Mr Gobind Nankani, the World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region said in the report.

Mr John Page, the World Bank's Chief Economist for Africa noted that gross primary enrolment rates as a share of the relevant age group - a standard indicator of investment in the poor - shot up to 93 percent in 2004 from 72 percent in 1990, contributing to a rise in literacy rates from 50 percent in 1997 to 65 percent in 2002.

He, however, regretted that successive increasing primary enrolments from 70 per cent in 1991 to above 90 per cent in 2004 has not been mirrored in secondary and tertiary education.

The report depicts a diverse continent, with several countries making remarkable progress, some stagnating and others doing poorly in the race.

It gives the full spectrum of achievers and laggards as stretching from Zimbabwe, which recorded a negative growth rate of 2.4 per cent - the only country with a negative growth rate in 2004 on the continent - to Equatorial Guinea, which recorded a 20.9 per cent growth rate.

The report also confirms that 16 African countries have sustained annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates in excess of 4.5 per cent since the mid-1990s. Inflation on the continent is down to historic lows and most exchange rate distortions have been eliminated.

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