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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Africa regains growth trajectory
An African woman picking cotton
Rising cotton prices have helped some African countries
Africa's growth picked up in 2003 after a rough 2002, a survey has found.

Rising commodity prices and peace talks in several war zones helped turn things around, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

According to the OECD's African Economic Outlook (AEO), growth was 3.6% in 2003, back to the long-run average after a dip to 2.7% in 2002.

But the figures still leave Africa far off the rate needed for poverty reduction, the report's authors warn.

The Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations call for a halving of economic poverty levels to 23% of Africans in 2015 from 46% in 1990.

2003: 3.6%
2002: 2.7%
Central Africa
2003: 4.2%
2002: 4.1%
East Africa
2003: 2.4%
2002: 1.7%
North Africa
2003: 4.9%
2002: 3.3%
Southern Africa
2003: 1.8%
2002: 3.3%
West Africa
2003: 4.5%
2002: 1.0%
Source: OECD.
(2003 figure is estimated)
But the AEO warns that if performance stays as currently predicted, 39% of Africans will still be living in poverty by 2015.

And despite being an improvement on the previous year, the 2003 rate fell far behind developing world leaders such as China, on 9.1%.

Peace dividend

The report indicates that African growth was achieved despite weakness in the world economy.

One problem for Africa, the AEO says, is the reliance on Europe as a destination for exports.

Almost half the continent's exported goods go to the European Union, but continuing slow growth there means that demand is likely to grow less than 3% a year in the near future.

But strengthening prices for commodities such as coffee, cotton and gold helped several countries, despite problems with fluctuating exchange rates and the decline of the US dollar.

And the soaring price of oil underpinned the economies of Africa's oil-producing states.

The transition to peace, albeit a fragile one, in states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d'Ivoire also helped ensure that Central and West Africa showed among the strongest growth.

Southern Africa, on the other hand, fell short as the South African rand strengthened and Zimbabwe's economic woes deepened.

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