2. Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa
Which brings me to my second point: the outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa. Here the news is encouraging.
In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa has been the second-fastest-growing region in the world in recent years, just after Asia. In many countries, this growth has contributed to higher living standards and faster poverty reduction. Low inflation, reduced levels of public debt, and adequate foreign exchange reserve levels – have shielded much of the region from the global financial crisis.
The improvement is particularly significant in Mali's neighborhood. Thanks to the recovery in Côte d'Ivoire, which has been working hard to recover the ground lost after years of civil strife, the West African Union (WAEMU) has been one of the fastest growing regions in Africa. This is an obvious benefit for Mali—since part of your exports and imports are with your neighbors.
Overall, we expect Sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy continued robust growth—which our projections in October place at 5 percent in 2013 and close to 6 percent in 2014. But this outlook is not without risks. Policymakers should remain vigilant to threats from slower demand in emerging market economies, unfavorable changes in commodity prices, or higher financing costs.
We will have the opportunity to revisit some of these issues in depth in May when we hold a conference in partnership with the Government of Mozambique to which all Sub-Saharan Africa countries have been invited—including your Minister of Economy and Finance. Appropriately titled "Africa Rising", the conference will take stock of Africa's economic successes, as well as the challenges going forward.
3. Unlocking Mali's Potential
Let me now turn to my third topic and the main issue for today's meeting—unlocking Mali's potential.
Although the global outlook suggests a relatively benign external environment for Mali, your country is facing some difficult challenges of its own as it emerges from a turbulent period.
Consolidating peace, advancing national reconciliation, and ensuring political stability are key objectives. And rightly so—political stability is essential for good economic performance. And vice versa—a strong, healthy economy improves the prospects for political stability and social peace. Fostering inclusive growth, where individuals across the broad spectrum of the economy can benefit and thrive, is an important part of this process.