African Leaders Urged To Spread The Wealth

In its annual report, the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, identified poor governance and creaking transport and power infrastructure as the main impediments to the continent of a billion people.

“Only leadership and governance can close the gap between a rich continent and a poor people,” Annan told a news conference in South Africa’s commercial capital.

The report highlighted Africa’s increasing ties with emerging giants such as China, which has overtaken the United States as the region’s top trading partner, saying they were having a “significant impact” on the continent.

However, it criticised governments and external investors for striking deals, especially in the minerals sector, that too seldom benefited the people from under whose feet the precious metals and ores are being dug.

“Africa is rich and its stock is rising. The value of its land and stocks of minerals is going up,” Annan said.

“There is no lack of resources, no deficiency of knowledge and no shortage of plans. Africa’s progress rests above all else on the mobilisation of political will, both on the continent and internationally,” he said.

Before the economic slump of 2009, sub-Saharan economies enjoyed pacy growth of 5 percent a year — comfortably above population expansion rates – and most have managed to bounce back well with this year’s recovery in world commodity prices.

In April, the International Monetary Fund projected regional expansion of an average 4.7 percent for 2010.

But in many countries the gap between rich and poor was getting bigger, the report said.

“This is both unjust and potentially dangerous,” it said.

In South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, income inequality has got worse since the end of apartheid in 1994, and there are protests by blacks living in squalid townships around major cities almost daily. Reuters