4 April 2008

Africa: Continent's Growth Not Translated Into Social Development Gains - Report

Addis Ababa — Despite strong economic performance for the third consecutive year with an average growth rate of 5.8%, this has not been translated in to meaningful gains in terms of social development, the 2008 Economic Report on Africa said.

The report said the "robust" economic growth was an encouraging trend, but there is still no clear evidence to show that it has created a substantial number of decent jobs, and subsequently, significantly reduced poverty.

"This situation is most pronounced for marginalized and vulnerable groups including women, the aged, youth, and people with disabilities," the report released on Tuesday jointly by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) said.

According to the report, the overall exclusion of these groups from the society was reflected not only in their lower incomes and poorer outcomes on the labor market but also in terms of their lower educational attainment rates, poorer health status and under-representation in political processes and policymaking.

As noted earlier by various findings, growth rates in Africa-though still low in contrast with the level required for meeting the MDGs by 2015- were attributed to a range of factors including high commodity demand and prices and increased out put in key sectors such as agriculture and services.

The aggregate scorecard on the MDGs in the continent clearly showed that currently less than a score of countries are on track to meeting a significant number of the goals.

The report put growth volatility and insufficiency as critical issue deserving urgent attention of policy makers and development community at large, "as recent microeconomic trends in thee continent highlighted." Analyses by ECA showed high disparities in GDP growth across counties and over time.

Growth volatility has been greater in resources-poor countries and in Africa excluding North Africa due to high vulnerability to weather shocks and terms of trade changes, according to the findings.

The report recommended that the continent's governments and partners should ensure that economic growth benefits socially excluded groups.

Besides increasing public investment in social services that target these groups, "Governments need to consider policies that promote their( excluded groups) access to education/ training and health facilities-their participation in the labor market and in general human rights access", it said.

The report said the impressive growth of some and the slow growth of others present a menu of challenges to African countries in 2008 and beyond.

The report discussed climate change, infrastructure bottlenecks and rising inequality as three key challenges that would be critical in 2008.

Among the cross-cutting issues, the report raised issues of health and employment to prove the slow social development of the economic growth of the continent.

As regards to health, the report noted the situation in most countries remains a major constraint to economic and social development.

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