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Posted on on May 28th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

At the UN, Africa Day was the occasion for a panel discussion on “African Economic Outlook 2007” – a joint publication by the African Development Bank and the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – co-organized by the OECD Development Centre, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN University Office at the UN in New York.

We happened still to have had handy the Former UN Secretary-General’s, an African himself, message on Africa Day of 2006. We scan it in because it says to us that Mr. Kofi Annan acknowledged in it the effect that aid from the G8 was having on development in Africa. Then a second release from the UNSG on May, 25, 2006, to a Ministerial Round-Table of West and Central African Countries in Madrid, was dedicated to the fight against terrorism in the African regions – this meeting being held in a European city that itself was still smarting from effects of terrorism. It is not hard to see that in the year since then, indeed, little progress was achieved in places like Sudan/Darfur or Zimbabwe.



From an African point of view – May 25, 2007 the leadership of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the motor of NEPAD – the New Partnership for Africa’s Development – had the following remarks from Gaborone, Botswana:

“The Southern African Development Community (SADC) today joins the people of the African continent, from all walks of life, in commemorating the forty-fourth anniversary of Africa Day. May 25 marks an important landmark in the history of the African people’s struggle for self-determination, freedom, independence, economic and social development. It is a day on which we celebrate the formation, on 25 May 1963, of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

On this historic occasion, SADC would like to pay tribute and salute the pioneers of the OAU, whose formation was primarily driven by a common aspiration towards de-colonisation, liberation, equality, justice, progress and the unity of the African people. The legendary vision of the founding fathers of the OAU to seek a joint African solution to the dichotomy that faced Africa in the 1960s, through a common vision of unity, inspires us today to further achieve greater unity, cooperation and integration.

Africa Day exemplifies the achievements made by the various leaders on the continent with regard to the founding of the African Union (AU) in 2002, in establishing NEPAD and other continental developments, to address the challenges of the continent and ensure that the 21st Century truly becomes an African Century.

The commemoration of Africa Day also highlights the important role and participation of SADC in the continent’s development and integration agenda. This year’s Africa Day is an occasion to celebrate a range of welcome developments on the continent. The African Union has taken root, with many of its institutions already established. The Pan-African Parliament has been inaugurated as a platform for the articulation of the aspirations of the peoples of Africa. Commendable progress has also been made in the implementation of NEPAD, especially in the priority areas of agriculture, infrastructure, environment and health – which are the key areas in reducing poverty, promoting social stability and improving the quality of life. Equally, progress has been made in the areas of peace, security and stability.

However, much remains to be done. We must keep striving to address both HIV and AIDS, gender inequality, domestic violence and the persistence of violent conflicts in various parts of Africa, which continue to hold back development by destroying social and economic infrastructures, diverting resources and tearing asunder the social and cultural fabric of affected societies. On this Africa Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the unity and socio-economic development of Africa and its people.

May we all, across our continent, celebrate Africa Day with pride in the achievements of the OAU. May we all be inspired to face the future with renewed vigor, loyalty and dedication to our continent and its people, confident that the successor to the OAU, the African Union, and its development programme, NEPAD, will take us forward towards the achievement of the goals of African unity, peace, democracy and prosperity for all.”

Mail & Guardian Online, Evan Pickworth, Johannesburg, South Africa, Reports on May 28, 2007:
“UN report cautiously upbeat on Africa’s growth.”

(but questions how much this reflects a true African point of view.)

Africa remains on the march to economic prosperity with growth of 6%
expected in 2007 from 5,6% this year, said the United Nations in its mid-year World Economic Situation and Prospects Report, launched in Johannesburg on Monday.

“Strong growth is expected to continue into 2008. Africa’s good recent growth record represents a major turnaround from the previous decades of Africa’s economic stagnation,” the report says.

Rising mining outputs and increases in investment and infrastructure growth are highlighted as key benefits for Africa in the period ahead by Robert Vos, director of the UN’s development policy and analysis division.

However, the UN highlights that growth in Africa is not fast enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals, with the report noting that 44 developing countries did not manage to reach a growth rate of 3% in GDP per capita.

“This group includes a large number of African countries, suggesting that economic developments in these countries falls short of what is considered necessary by Nepad [the New Partnership for Africa’s Development] and international agencies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” says the UN.

The report highlights that growth of Africa’s economy continues to stem largely from developments in a few big economies in the region, namely Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

“All these economies, except Morocco, will expand at almost 5% or more in 2007,” the report notes. The UN also stresses that the growth of oil-importing countries in the region is “less robust” on average and that social and political tensions continue to restrain economic growth in a number of the poorer African nations.

“Risks to the outlook for the region are mainly on the downside. In particular, a further slowdown of the United States economy, the main global economic engine, would slow world economic growth and thereby also affect African economies.

“A weakening housing sector is the main cause of the present slowdown in the US. In the baseline scenario, only a mild further weakening of the US housing sector is expected, while US business investments are expected to pick up again in 2008 after a slow period,” says the UN.

The report warns, however, that should house prices in the US start to decline, this could affect domestic demand more seriously and push the global economy into recession.

It also highlights that growth in Africa is highly concentrated in a narrow range of activities, “making many African economies extremely vulnerable to exogenous factors such as weather conditions, terms of trade developments and aid flows”.

“As a result, most African countries have been unable to sustain sufficiently high growth rates over the medium term,” says the UN.

The report shows that from 1998 to 2006, only seven of the 52 countries monitored by the Economic Commission for Africa achieved an average real GDP growth of more than 7%, considered by some as the minimum required growth rate to halve extreme poverty in the region by 2015.

“Growth of the majority of the economies in the region has clustered in the range of 3% to 7%. By this measure and at current trends, few countries would be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” it says.

The report also states that world gross product is expected to decline to a pace of 3,4% for 2007, down from 4% in 2006. This slowdown is, however, expected to stabilize in 2008 with projected world gross product at 3,6%.

For Africa to achieve the dual aims of increasing growth rates and sustaining them, the UN says it will require sustained improvements in domestic investment climates to promote private-sector activity, improved provision of infrastructure, measures to minimize the adverse effects of external shocks on incomes of the poor and, most importantly, progress in the diversification of production and exports.

Vos was speaking at the Southern African launch of the report by the Association of Southern African Development Community Chambers of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the UN Information Centre in South Africa and the UN department of economic and social affairs.


The bottom line from all of the above is that economists at the World Bank and the UN tend to see Africa in a very large sweep as if it were a browned goulash. Most economists giving us averages of the kind that one millionaire and one popper average as two rich people – and that is not the reality in Africa where poor people are poor, and the leadership in oil and mineral exporting countries is rich. In the Arab North Africa and in South Africa, the colonial powers did develop a middle class – thus these regions are somewhat different from the rest of the continent. Now, the UNU-ONY led Panel of May 25, 2007, that presented joint African Development Bank – OECD Development Center produced “African Economic Outlook 2007,” was indeed the best presentation on the economy of the African continent that was provided at a UN meeting.
It did not gloat in figures and did indeed show the discrepancies.

To get a sense of what development means today to people measuring it in terms of GNP growth, rather then in term of Sustainable Development, we like to mention that the growth leader is seen as China and for the 2007-2008 period the figure mentioned is 10.5%, with India running at 8%, Russia at 6% while the developed/industrialized countries show much lower figures: Canada at 3%, the UK at 2.5% and the US, the Eurozone, and Japan at 2.3% only.

In above context, the African Bank/OECD Center figures for growth of the oil-exporting Africa are 11.7% and for the non-oil exporters 6.7% – these figures are really in no way comparable to the China and India figures – this because of the fact that the oil money has not led to any real industrialization in the oil exporting countries, and the growth in the non-oil-exporting countries is in a large part based on foreign aid rather then on entrepreneurship like in India. We are much less inclined to see in Africa the great hope that the “diplomatese” of some of the articles we posted here would like to assume. We also are aware that much of this growth has led to harm to the environment in those countries without having given them much in return – this because even the oil money did not create further industrialization – though we know that Khartoum has now a well developed consumer minority, but what about what goes on in Darfur? Two states in Africa, Somalia and Zimbabwe are failed states and rather retracted by 5%. This is specially hurting when one knows something about Zimbabwe.

We took lots of notes, the presenters were ready to provide further data and we give here the reference to: and we will now only look at some of the Q&A session.

Patrick Hayford, Director of UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, wanted to know if water should be privatized in Africa, and was told that there were various methods used for privatization, but in all methods there was the experience that the companies could not get back their investment and now the question is moot – there is a general retreat from privatization in water distribution.

We decided that following the debacle with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and that Sustainable Development is the only way forward for Africa, there is a question that must be asked.
We said so, and wanted to know that – as the report showed there are oil exporters and North African and South African economies that nominally do well, there are many economies that were helped from the outside and managed to improve, and there are two failed states. So our question was why did the Africans chose to appoint one of the failed states to lead the UN CSD – specially when next topic of the CSD is going to be agriculture – the main crater the Zimbabweans created for themselves and by themselves? Will this not hurt the other African States?

Mr. Patrick Hanford said he can answer this as his office was involved in the discussions – and that “this was a decision on Zimbabwe by Sovereign States.”

OK, people are entitled to shoot their own feet – but why harm in the process their own citizens? Sorry, this was as bad an answer, though clearly an honest answer, as one could have thought up. Nobody else on the panel added to that answer, though I saw one other member who wanted to answer but was discouraged of doing so by the chairman. The person told me afterwards – “that was a good question.”
And I must add here that this is a bad UN – the kind of organization that has put “we the governments” ahead of “we the peoples.”

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