ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Foreign investment and increasing exports are propelling high economic growth rates in Africa, but haven't established enough jobs to substantially reduce poverty or meet the high expectations of the continent's large number of youths and poor, according to an annual economic progress report released Friday at the World Economic Forum's meeting here.
Seven out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa live in national economies that have averaged 4% growth during the past decade, a period during which investment from China, Brazil Russia, India and other developing nations diversified capital flows into the continent, according to the report, which was issued by the Africa Progress Panel, which promotes and monitors African development.
But sub-Saharan Africa's share of the world's poor - those earning less than $1.25 per day - actually increased to 28 percent in 2008 from 21 percent in 1999, the panel reported.
Africa's middle-class, those earning $10 to $100 a day, accounts for only 2% of the global middle-class, despite its population of more than 850 million people, it said.
"We have seen enormous changes across the continent and we have witnessed incredible revolutions and the end of autocratic regimes and the birth of new democracies," said panel chair Kofi Annan, the former United Nations president. "Combined with the rise of new social movements that caught everyone by surprise, the common thread linking global and social unrest is a shared sense of frustration at lack of jobs, responsive government, justice and equity."
Mr. Annan said Africa's strong economic growth "was at risk" due to marginalization of the continent's massive underclass and increasing inequality.
The Africa Progress Panel urged African governments to channel more resources toward creating infrastructure and institutions that could lift the most people out of poverty and create the most employment possible.
With so many people working in Africa's mostly informal agricultural sector - including most of Africa's working women - the panel suggested that small-scale farming should be targeted for development and job creation, following the example of South and East Asia.
The panel also warned that the same economic, political and demographic imbalances that led to the revolutions of last year's Arab Spring exist throughout Africa. The youth population in Africa is expected to double within the next decade, requiring the creation of 74 million new jobs, Mr. Annan said.
"If our youth do not have jobs, then we are sitting all sitting on a keg of gunpowder," said panel member and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. He warned that the Arab Spring in the Middle East could be followed by an "African Winter" of mass discontent if governments don't reform and liberalize their economies
The panelists also warned that the global economic crisis, particularly in Europe - one of Africa's most important trading partners - also threatens the continent's uneven development. Development assistance fell for the first time last year as several big African donors, including France and Italy, have already reduced their aid packages to offset economic woes at home, Mr. Annan said. He urged donor countries to keep their commitments to African nations even as he pressed aid recipients to use that aid more effectively.
Bob Geldof, a musician, businessman and anti-poverty advocate, said that thorny challenges such as food scarcity and energy shortages will require the West to pay closer attention to Africa's progress.
"We can no longer think on a country-by-country or even a continent-by-continent basis," he said of increasing scarcity of global resources. "This is one of those issues that can only be resolved cooperatively with consensus and cooperation."
Mr. Geldof said he hopes the next G-8 conference, scheduled for May 18 and 19 at Camp David, will address food security and agricultural development in Africa as a job creator, an answer to scarcity and way to integrate the continent into the global economy.
The panelists also urged more prosecutions of foreign companies in Africa that were engaging in corrupt practices such as bribery of African governments and avoidance of tax obligations.
The panel marked significant progress in improving health. About half of Africa's 23 million HIV infected people were taking antiretroviral therapies in 2010, compared to only 2% of all infected Africans a decade ago. Deaths due to malaria have decreased by one-third since the end of the 1990s and deaths of children under five fell to 3.7 million in 2010 from 4 million in 2000.
But the progress report noted that malnutrition remains a chronic problem - 35 percent of Africa's children are stunted, or short for their age, it said.
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