African economies will continue to enjoy high rates of growth this year, but that growth will only translate into job creation and poverty reduction if the State takes a larger role, according to a report released today by the United Nations. The 2011 Economic Report on Africa, produced by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union, found the continent’s economy grew by 4.7 per cent last year and is likely to increase by another 5 per cent this year.
Rising commodity prices and growing demand for exports, as well as increased aid and more investment in extractive industries such as mining are the key reasons for the growth, the report stated.
Tourism is also on the improve in many African nations, while good agricultural harvests in some regions are contributing to better results.
But the report notes that Africa is still far from attaining most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the series of social and economic targets – such as halving extreme poverty, reducing maternal mortality and ending environmental degradation – that world leaders have agreed to try to achieve by 2015.
Job creation has also not followed economic growth in many countries, and the report’s authors say the recent political and social unrest in such countries as Tunisia and Algeria reflects deep popular discontent with high unemployment and food prices.
The authors note that “successful economic transformation in emerging economies in Asia and Latin America was achieved by deliberate State intervention, based on a disciplined planning process that included the formulation of relevant development policies, provision of the required investment and creation of appropriate institutions.”
An increased role for the State, the report stresses, does not mean a rejection of the free-market system or the role of the private sector in generating economic growth.
“A developmental State can be defined as one that has the capacity to deploy its authority, credibility and legitimacy in a binding manner to design and implement development policies and programmes for promoting long-term economic transformation and growth, as well as the expansion of human capabilities, equity and welfare.”