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Vol 42 No 20

Published 12th October 2001


The other war

Casualties in Africa's economic battles are outstripping those in the military campaigns in Asia and the Middle East

Watching Africa's halting economic progress amid war and recession, World Bank officials are launching an emergency drive for aid. Despite a decade of economic reform and debt relief, Africa's economies are set to grow on average at no more than three per cent a year for the next decade, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Africa will remain the only continent where poverty is growing. The Bank is basing its response around the New Africa Initiative - the Millennium Action Plan, initiated by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria and presented at the African Union summit in Lusaka, Zambia, in July (AC Vol 42 No 14). The World Bank and UNCTAD point out that the slump in commodity prices will cancel out the benefits expected from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative. Over 80 per cent of African exports consist of primary commodities whose prices (except for that of oil) have been falling relative to exports from the rest of the world. The Bank plans its own emergency finance programmes, hoping for more support from rich countries and international organisations. Officials believe they must act quickly to staunch the damage from the commodity slump and some think attention has been concentrated too much on debt relief, not enough on policy reform.

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