The Observer (Kampala)

Africa: State Hands Over IMF Africa Group Chair

Tokyo — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) African Group Constituency Group has elected Malawi's Finance Minister Ken Lipenga as the new chair of the 22-member grouping for the next two years. Lipenga, takes over from Uganda's Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka.

The IMF Executive Director for Africa, Moeketsi Majoro, said during the just-concluded group's meeting in Tokyo, Japan that Malawi's election to chair the grouping comes after the country successfully deputised Uganda over the last two years.

The IMF African Group 1 Constituency Group gives African countries the opportunity to voice their issues to a panel that helps in determining the international policy objectives for a group of twenty-one nations.

Commenting on the IMF-World Bank meetings, Uganda's Finance minister, Maria Kiwanuka, said the meeting was very much looking at the prospects for the future in view of the challenging economic trends like the ongoing problems in the euro zone, slow recovery in the US and the slowdown in Japan, China and Korea.

"For us in Uganda, we are looking at the main concerns: the global outlook and its effect on Uganda. We witnessed the first wave simply because of our limited exposure to the international financial crisis," Kiwanuka said. "Our macro-economic objective is to rebuild development growth through agriculture and harmonizing the business climate for the private sector. That is how we can assist the private sector."

Nigeria's Finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in an interview with IMF Survey online in May this year, said African countries should rebuild their fiscal buffers and diversify their economies away from commodities in order to protect themselves from another possible global downturn.

The IMF World Economic Outlook released in Tokyo recently showed that only Sub-Saharan Africa countries have reason to celebrate. But despite the rosy outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, the IMF/World Bank cautioned Africa irresponsible fiscal behaviour.

Citing Africa's infrastructure gaps, experts called for integration across the continent to enhance intra-African trade and commerce. A panel of discussants on regional trade and investments noted the difficulties often experienced while moving goods across various corridors on the continent and the need to dismantle such barriers.

It also agreed on the need to fix the infrastructure deficit, which now constrains intra-regional trade. "The ensuing delays result in goods taking several days to travel between a few kilometres, following which it becomes easier to move goods to China than among three neighbouring African nations," a report from the trade experts at the annual meetings noted.

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