8 April 2014

Africa: World Bank Concerned Over Growth in Africa Amidst Poverty

World Bank Chief Economist for Africa region says the bank is concerned about the growth rate in Africa which is not reflected in the pockets of many Africans with Poverty ragging in many countries.

Fancisco Ferreira, Chief Economist of the World Bank for Africa region speaking through a live webcast to journalists Monday at the German Embassy Compound in Monrovia said growth in Africa is not reflected in the lives of poor communities.

"The bank is concerned about growth not reflecting in people's pocket, not translating into people's lives. In Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and many African countries, this is an issue of concern to the bank", said Chief Economist Ferreira.

He said one reason responsible for growth in poverty is that growth across many African countries is not taking place where the poor communities are, including the agriculture sector.

Economist Ferreira said most growth in Africa can be found in the oil, copper, iron ore and natural resource sector leaving out agriculture and investment in areas such as quality health care, good roads and others that could impact future generations.

He proposed cash distribution to poor communities like is currently done in Ethiopia and Tanzania, indicating that it could be expanded for people to receive some form of social pensions; mothers receiving monthly transfer for their children and other forms of benefits for poor communities in which these resources are exploited.

Governance remains a priority

Ms. Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist, Africa region said growth in African countries has been broad based with considerable variations. She said African countries are experiencing challenges in diversifying their exports with manufacturing on the decline. The World Bank Lead Economist admonished African countries to work towards export in services both traditional and modern services.

Ms. Punam disclosed that agriculture and manufacturing are on the decline in most African countries, cautioning that growth be extended to the informal sector and rural areas. "Plenty of work still to do to continue to work on Africa's prosperity... good governance remains a key priority evidence that fiscal deficit has been on the rise", said Punam.

The World Bank in its report entitled the Africa's Pulse released Monday stated that Economic growth in sub Saharan Africa continues to rise from 4.7 percent in 2013 to a forecasted 5.2 percent in 2014. According to the bank, this performance is boosted by rising investment in natural resources and infrastructure, and strong household spending.

"Growth was notably buoyant in resource-rich countries, including Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo. It remained steady in Cote d'Ivoire, while rebounding in Mali, supported by improved political stability and security. Non-resource-rich countries, particularly Ethiopia and Rwanda, also experienced sold economic growth in 2013", the report stated.

The report also indicated that flows to sub-Saharan Africa continued to rise, reaching an estimated 5.3 percent of regional GDP in 2013, significantly above the developing-country average of 3.9 percent, with net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the region growing by 16 percent to a near-record $43 billion in 2013, boosted by new oil and gas discoveries in many countries including Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Poor Infrastructure limits Growth Potential

The World Bank Group's Vice President for Africa said African countries are amount the world's fastest growing economies, poor infrastructure will continue to limit the continent's growth potential.

"Diop further notes that a number of African countries are now routinely among the world's fastest-growing countries as a result of macroeconomic reforms in recent years and the fact that the rest of the world has steadily updated its reality of the continent as a high opportunity region for trade, investment, business, science and technology, and tourism. Poor physical infrastructure will, however, continue to limit the region's growth potential. Significantly more infrastructure spending is needed in most countries in the region if they are to achieve a lasting transformation of their economies", the reported stated.

Citizen participation in contract monitoring critical

In a related development, a four day forum of the West Africa Contract Monitoring Network (WACMN) intended to move the agenda of contract monitoring through a multi-stakeholder regional approach to contract monitoring held in Accra, Ghana has ended with a call for citizen participation in contract monitoring indicating that such is critical for development.

In a statement delivered on her behalf at the forum, Minister of Justice and Attorney general of Ghana Marrieta Brew Appiah described the World Bank-funded Contract monitoring initiative as an important tool in promoting social accountability in the four countries.

"Open governance is delivering tangible benefits around the world-faster growth, better public services, less corruption and less poverty", said Minister Appiah according to the World Bank Statement.

World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mr. Yusupha Crookes, said "establishing effective and robust contract monitoring coalitions will contribute to controlling corruption and ultimately improve public sector efficiency and the delivery of public services".

Mr. Crookes added that the Bank considers stakeholders' participation and feedback in partnership with governments as a critical factor for effective social and economic development and for poverty reduction, noting; "the forum will provide a valuable platform to highlight the impact of collective action to achieve development outcomes".

Discussing the topic: Listening to Citizens: Using Citizens Engagement to improve governance outcome, Mr. Sahr Kpundeh, World Bank Africa Region Governance and Anti Corruption Adviser said whistle blowing is the most powerful weapon against fraud.

Said Kpundeh "Governments must take steps to protect and reward whistleblowers; this will ensure that trust is restored to the governance system and reporting corruption does not lead to reprisals".

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