Africa must tackle poverty to share benefits of strong growth – IMF’s Lagarde

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The IMF head recommended three priorities to ensure the region’s growth can be wide, inclusive and sustained: “Build infrastructure, build institutions, and build people.”

Lagarde said Africa still had big infrastructure gaps, which represented huge costs to businesses and to people.

She cited as an example the fact that over the past three decades, per capita output of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa remained virtually flat. Only 16 percent of all roads were paved, compared with 58 percent in South Asia. The investment needs to address this in the region were estimated at about $93 billion annually, she said.

The IMF chief said Africa also needed to improve governance, transparency and create sound economic frameworks for growth – she called this “building institutions.”

This would ensure that revenues and benefits from the continent’s mineral riches – Africa has more than 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves – could be better captured for national budgets and generating more jobs.

Lagarde said Africa needed to “build people” to reap the  dividends  of its rapid population growth. She cited estimates that a one percentage point increase in the working age population could boost GDP growth by half a percentage point.

“For this to happen, however, ‘good’ jobs need to be created in the private sector. Today, only one in five people in Africa finds work in the formal sector,” Lagarde said. “This must change. With wider access to quality education,  healthcare  and infrastructure services, it can change.”

Technology could extend access to financial services to millions, and this was already happening in several countries, such as Kenya.

“Africa Rising will benefit the lives of people on the continent. Beyond that, Africa Rising will benefit the world,” Lagarde said.

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