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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Africa performance 'encouraging'
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by Andrew Walker
BBC Economics correspondent in Accra, Ghana
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This is one in a series of pieces from Africa, where Andrew Walker is travelling with IMF head Horst Koehler.

The IMF boss, Horst Koehler, says he is convinced that Africa is heading in the right direction.

In a speech in Accra, wrapping up a five country tour of the continent, he said he has been encouraged by the determination to create the conditions for more decisive progress in fighting poverty.

But news from Washington could show the United States going in the wrong direction.

The speech included a catalogue of improvements in African countries, including all those he visited.

Economic stability

Here in Ghana, he said he has been impressed by the turnaround in economic performance over the last year under President John Kufuor.

He said the President had successfully steered the economy out of a crisis.

In Ivory Coast things are looking up after a period of political and economic stability.

In the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, there has been remarkable progress in stabilising the economy.

Tanzania has made progress in attracting foreign investment.

And Burkina Faso's policies to promote cotton exports are improving the incomes of the poor.

Corruption

So all is rosy in the African garden? Not quite.

He said there is a need for take decisive action to root out corruption.

It applies to every African country, he said, but he also singled out Ivory Coast for a special, not so honourable mention.

Mr Koehler said that African people are no longer willing to tolerate corruption and badly run government.

African countries should also reduce red tape that effects business.

Mr Koehler's tour reflects a new enthusiasm in the developed world for at least the appearance of tackling Africa's problems.

It's a priority for him, for his opposite number at the World Bank, James Wolfensohn and for the G8 group of leading powers.

Subsidies attacked

One G8 member cast an unwelcome shadow over the proceedings. Mr Koehler has repeatedly used the platform of this tour to press the rich countries to allow Africa to export more.

He said that while aid is needed, we need to work first and foremost on trade. He said that providing better opportunities for African countries to expand and diversify their exports is the best form of help for self help.

He has tried to ram home his message during this tour that the United States and the European Union should phase out their agricultural subsidies.

But his robust criticism of the subsidies and tariff barriers to food imports of the industrialised world met a severe rebuff on Thursday when the US House of Representatives passed legislation to increase agricultural support.

Mr Koehler said that if this legislation does become law, it would be a step in absolutely the wrong direction.

Mr Koehler has enough experience in German government to know very well how the domestic political agenda - in this case represented by the US farm lobby - can knock other policies off course.

He must be well aware that the farm trade reforms he - and James Wolfensohn - want to see are a project for the long term.

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