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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 18:12 GMT
World Bank sees Africa progress
Children living in a slum in Angola
Oil revenues have boosted Angola's economy and helped reduce poverty
Fewer conflicts and increased economic growth has made 2005 - dubbed "The Year of Africa" - a turning point for the continent, the World Bank has said.

Its annual study of the continent found that 16 African states had managed to maintain annual economic growth of more than 4.5% since the 1990s.

This had enabled them to lift more of their citizens above the poverty line.

Meanwhile, the number of African conflicts had fallen from a peak of 16 in 2002 to five in 2005.

Mixed results

"Africa today is a continent on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes," said Gobind Nankani, the World Bank vice-president for the Africa region.

The bank's African Development Indicators report highlighted the extreme diversity of economic achievement in Africa.

On one hand, Zimbabwe's economy shrunk by 2.4% in 2004 - while Equatorial Guinea's economy surged 20.9%.

AFRICA FACTS
Highest per capita income - Seychelles ($8,190)
Biggest economy - South Africa (GDP of $152bn)
Largest population - Nigeria (128.7 million)
Lowest total life expectancy - Botswana (35 years)
Greatest HIV prevalence - Swaziland (33% of 15-49 year-olds)
Source: World Bank

But the report also noted that inflation on the continent was down to historic lows, and that the region had managed to weather the impact of higher oil prices in recent years.

On a more negative note, the bank said foreign investment in the continent was just $10.1bn in 2004 - only 1.6% of global foreign investment - and that more than 50% of the funds were spent in Nigeria and Sudan.

The report also highlighted the difficulty of starting a business in many parts of Africa - taking, across the continent, an average of 64 days.

Millennium Development Goals

In more positive vein, the bank's report said that countries including Senegal, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda and Ghana were on course to meet the target of halving poverty by 2010 - five years ahead of schedule.

The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by 189 countries in New York in 2000 with a target date of 2015.

Each MDG also includes a number of indicators designed to measure its progress, which are intended to be tracked and updated regularly by UN member governments and international governing bodies such as the World Bank.

The year 2005 saw a particular focus on Africa and the MDG's - it was a key focus of the G8 summit in Gleneagles and saw the publication of reports from the UN Millennium Project and UK's Commission for Africa.

Prospects

In its latest Africa report, the World Bank said that many countries had made good progress in meeting some of the other MDGs, such as getting more young children into primary education and improving child mortality.

THE EIGHT GOALS
1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2: Achieve universal primary education
3: Promote gender equality and empower women
4: Reduce child mortality
5: Improve maternal health
6: Combat HIV/Aids, malaria, and other diseases
7: Ensure environmental sustainability
8: Develop a global partnership for development

Looking forward, it said improved governance and management of natural resources was a key requirement, particularly with African nations due to receive a $200bn windfall from oil revenues between 2000 and 2010.

It said it was seeing signs that African leaders were taking more responsibility for improving governance and assisting the private sector in attracting foreign investment and boosting trade with growing markets like those in China and India.


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