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Africa Is Back

In the wake of the global financial crisis, there is a fresh energy in Sub-Saharan Africa–and a broad consensus on the road ahead. Above all, there is the strong sense that Africa’s destiny will be driven by Africans, not by others.

That at least is my initial feeling after two days of dialogue in Kenya with President Kibaki and government officials, civil society leaders and trade unionists, academics and students, and ordinary Kenyans. “Africa is back” is how I described it in a live TV debate in Nairobi with Prime Minister Odinga,  Minister of Finance Kenyatta, Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai, Transparency International’s Akere Muna and my friend, Bob Geldof. 

Too rosy a scenario? I don’t think so. I have so far observed several clear themes in my African interactions, during a trip that is taking me to South Africa and Zambia, as well as Kenya:

First, the priority being given to sound  economic policy. This may seem obvious, but it has not always been the case on the continent. It was good economic policies that helped buffer Africa during the crisis; and good economic policies are the key to the future–to bringing growth back to pre-crisis levels and to generating jobs.

Second, the importance of good governance. And especially the new role of a vigorous civil society in that process. Again, obvious? Perhaps–but the open and frank airing of issues of corruption, transparency, and accountability have not always been the stuff of live TV debates in Africa. We had one of those on March 8 at the University of Nairobi.

Third, there is a growing awareness of the importance of Africa’s role in, and relationships with, the rest of the world–trade, investment flows, and aid too. I heard Bob Geldof make an inspirational and impassioned case why Africa would become a “global growth pole” by 2050. If that is to be achieved, of course, Africa will need to manage a swathe of global forces that will impact the future of the continent.

One of those forces is climate change–an issue again on which I observe an increasing awareness in Africa. With her Nobel-level knowledge and expertise, I was enthralled to listen to Wangari Mathai speak of Africa’s potential leading edge in the area of “green growth.”

In a speech entitled “Africa’s Economic Transformation,” I also spoke of the idea of a “green fund,” with the capacity to raise $100 billion a year for both adaptation and mitigation–which could help break the impasse on the financing of climate change.

While such a fund would not be managed by the IMF, our staff are working on something that, I believe, could be an important contribution to the global debate–and to the well-being of our planet in the 21st century. I am heartened that Nick Stern, who has considerable credibility on this particular issue, feels the same way.”

You will hear more about this in the weeks ahead.

Also see my earlier post on this trip: IMF—Delivering on Promises to Africa


Originally published at iMFdirect and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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