World Bank Says Africa Third-Fastest Improving Continent

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By Wezi Tjaronda Brussels Africa’s image is slowly changing from that of being conflict ridden, poverty and hunger stricken to one of progress. With the advent of elections in many countries, including the DRC, Guinea Bissau, Burundi and others’ improvement in the length of doing business, decrease in the number of people living on less than a dollar per day as well as the way governments are investing in their people, the feeling among many from the United Nations agencies, African Union, donors and the African Development Bank is that Africa is on the move. These sentiments were expressed during the official opening of the EU Development Days and during a roundtable discussion on governance last Wednesday in Brussels. The development days are the first the European Union has organized to bring experts from all over the world to discuss how the Union can best deliver on the continent. According to EU President JosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Manuel Barroso, there have been some remarkable changes on the continent politically and economically. There is not only a renewed commitment to improve governance, but also an increased economic growth of 6 percent, compared to 2.3 percent between 1980 and 2000. The EU feels that the occasion is to acknowledge that Africa is changing for the better, to show that there is hope, much hope. “That Africa is not merely the continent of wars and misery as it is often depicted. No, it is also a continent with a young and vital population eager to leave the dark chapters of its past behind. A population with an enormous talent to look at life from a positive angle,” Belgium’s Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt added. And the World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, said although Africa is in need, it is also associated with positive aspects of a continent on a sound economic growth path. Some countries in the sub-region have registered economic growth, while another third of the population especially in Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda, have had more children immunized and in school. A World Bank report of 2006 indicates that the continent is the third-fastest improving continent. “This change is coming from people who want to take control of their own destiny,” the WB said. Africa receives 60 percent of all its development assistance from Europe, which amounts to 15 billion euros annually. The EU has pledged to double the development assistance by 2010. On trade, Europe buys 85 percent of all agricultural products exported from Africa, which is more than all other G8 countries combined. The conference has its focus on governance because it is the key for the EU Strategy for Africa adopted by the EU in 2006. Governance is also believed to be at the core of poverty reduction and sustainable development.