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Vol 39 No 1

Published 19th January 1998


Big men, big countries, big hopes

As the post-Mobutu order consolidates in central Africa, the focus will shift to political and military struggles in Sudan and West Africa

Africa's eyes are on four countries - Angola, Congo-Kinshasa, Nigeria and Sudan - whose political conflicts are reaching a critical point. Political success means these countries' oil, gas, agricultural and mineral riches could give an economic dividend to their region and beyond. But if they fail, the fall-out will hold back even the tentative economic recovery that some smaller African states are making. World Bank and International Monetary Fund economists speak cautiously of an African turnaround in 1998; they forecast growth of 5 per cent, well above global growth projections of 4.3 per cent. Five African countries grew at more than 10 per cent last year, the Bank says. The bad news this year is that economic locomotive South Africa is unlikely to improve much on its sluggish real growth of some 2 per cent in 1997; and the El Niño-propelled drought is likely to stymie growth elsewhere in Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. In East Africa, it has already triggered disastrous floods.

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