IMF's Camdessus urges Africa to end poverty
08:50 a.m. Jan 18, 2000 Eastern
By Luke Baker
LIBREVILLE, Jan 18 (Reuters) - IMF Managing Director
Michel Camdessus opened a summit of African heads of state in
Gabon on Tuesday with a challenge: seize the opportunity now if
you want to turn your countries around and end poverty.
``We must act now,'' he told more than 20 heads of state,
dozens of finance ministers and central bank officials attending a
three-day summit in the the central African country.
``I am convinced that, with the improvement in the global
economy we are seeing, it is time for Africa to find a way out of
its morass in order to move into a virtuous circle of growth,
poverty reduction and sustainable development.''
Outlining a series of priorities for the continent's leaders,
including poverty reduction, battling corruption and avoiding
conflict, the outgoing head of the IMF declared the arrival of a
renaissance for Africa.
``The chances of a new renaissance in Africa are here, the seeds
have been sewn, we are now at your disposal to make this a
reality for the people of Africa,'' he said.
But Camdessus' words of hope were balanced by other
speakers who highlighted the huge obstacles for the continent,
particularly in sub-Sahara where 22 of the 44 countries currently
receive assistance via the IMF.
NEARLY HALF SUB-SAHARA LIVES ON LESS THAN
$1 A DAY
Nearly half sub-Sahara's population -- around 300 million
people -- lives on less than $1 a day per capita and lacks
adequate social and medical care, leaving them open to malaria
Nine out of every 10 children in the world with HIV come from
Africa, where 23 million are infected with the disease. One in
five African countries is at war.
``That is a face of Africa that is not the face we wish to maintain.
The one we love is the one we want to extricate and develop,''
said Jean-Louis Sarbib, vice-president of the World Bank in
remarks preceding Camdessus.
``We need more growth, but we need a different type of growth.
We need enough so that we do not have to run to stay in the
Up for debate at the summit is the IMF's latest initiative for
helping the world's poorest countries, the Poverty Reduction and
The programme, introduced in November last year, replaces the
Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) which for more
than a decade has been the benchmark for achieving
macro-economic stability in unstable countries.
ESAF's focus on strict budget deficit, growth and privatisation
targets as a pre-requisite for funding, targets countries often
failed to meet, was regarded as too bitter a pill for many patients
The Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility puts the onus of
designing an adjustment programme into the loan recipient's
hands, and tries to take into account the views of development
agencies and civil society.
For it to work, a key goal will be gross domestic product
growth of between five and eight percent if the poorest people
are to see any change in their livelihood.
Currently, most African countries are growing at less than four
percent with exceptions on either side of that level.
The new initiative attempts to look at poverty reduction not in
pure macro-economic terms but as part of a virtuous circle that
Camdessus believes can be created when growth is achieved
and coupled with monetary stability and sound distribution.
In a declaration ahead of the opening of the summit, African
heads of state pledged to meet the IMF halfway in the challenge
of reducing the number of Africa's deeply impoverished.
``We recognize that poverty reduction is a challenge which we
must address ourselves, through our own solutions. We are
determined to move ahead in confronting this challenge head-on,
with the support of our development partners,'' the leaders said.
Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Republication and redistribution of Reuters content is expressly
prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters
shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for
any actions taken in reliance thereon.