Sub-Saharan Africa is clearly taking off-growing strongly and steadily for nearly two decades and showing a remarkable resilience in the face of the global financial crisis, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said.
But with poverty still at unacceptable levels, high inequality, and some countries facing recurring internal conflict, a priority for the continent is to build people, she told the Africa Rising conference in Maputo, Mozambique.
"Africa has taken its destiny into its own hands. Now is the time to build the future", she added to the audience of policymakers, development partners, civil society, academics, and business leaders from Africa.
Lagarde emphasized three priorities: build infrastructure, build institutions, and build people-"children, youth, workers, and in particular, women," Lagarde said. "Africa's greatest potential is its people."
Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, now chair of the Africa Progress Panel, and former U.S. president Bill Clinton also addressed the conference via video.
Annan stressed that Africa is facing "an era of enormous opportunity" and that it must not "squander the opportunity before us-allowing jobless growth and inequality to impede real progress."
Clinton said that the conference would provide a unique opportunity to leverage the power of creative cooperation, and find solutions to the challenges Africa is facing. "Together we can and we will continue to help Africa rise and move toward the brighter future that all of its people deserve," he stated.
The two-day Africa Rising conference is co-hosted by the IMF and the government of Mozambique as a platform to share ideas on how to sustain the sub-Saharan African region's current strong growth and share its benefits more widely.
Participants are scheduled to discuss crucial topics including how to harness the wealth stemming from Africa's natural resources; how to tackle the region's infrastructure gap; what is needed to create an enabling environment for a dynamic business sector and job creation; how to deepen financial markets and broaden access to finance in the region; how to strengthen economic stability and overcome sociopolitical and institutional weaknesses in fragile states; and how to translate economic growth into poverty reduction.