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World Bank expert says Rwanda is among the fastest growing economies

KIGALI – Rwanda is among the fastest growing economies that have recorded sustained and widespread economic growth on the African Continent, a senior official at the World Bank (WB) has said.

In a video press conference held on Monday for journalists from across the continent, Shanta Devarajan, the Chief Economist for Africa at the WB, referred to Rwanda as one of Africa’s success stories due to existence of government accountability and implementation of good policies.

“The important characteristic of the recent growth experience of Africa is that it is quite broad-based that even landlocked countries, resource poor countries, were growing better than 4 percent. When you look at some of our fastest growing countries like Uganda and Rwanda, they are both landlocked and until recently, not very resource rich either,” Devarajan said.

The Economist also hailed the government for instituting programs that do not only generate more resources to social sectors such as health and education, but also make those resources more productive.

“Rwanda has this result-based financing programme that actually encourages and creates incentives for doctors to show up and availability of medicines– this can lead to faster progress,” he said.

Despite the impact of the global financial crisis, Rwanda maintained a positive economic growth at 5.5 percent last year, according to available information.

He urged other African countries to pursue such initiatives to facilitate them achieve rapid economic growth.

Devarajan also observed that economic growth does not lead to poverty reduction unless it is associated with growth in agriculture, productive jobs and human development.

“We know that 70 percent of the poor earn their living in one or another from Agriculture. And if we want to reduce poverty, we have to make sure that agricultural productivity grows. … We can achieve poverty reduction with faster economic growth, but we have to pay attention to these areas,”

For the first time in three decades, the economist said growth in Africa was equal to that of all developing countries (except China and India).

Until the global crisis of 2008-9, average economic growth had been accelerating from around 4 percent in the early part of the decade to 5.7 percent in 2006 to 6.1 percent in 2007 (with a pre-crisis forecast of 6.4 percent in 2008).

This growth, he said, was not just due to high oil prices either—22 non-oil-exporters sustained better-than-four-percent average annual growth between 1998 and 2008.
Speaking ahead of the Bank’s Spring Meetings due this weekend, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the World Bank Vice President, Africa Region, urged African countries to continue pursuing policy reforms to achieve fast economic growth.

Although Africa continues to have a massive infrastructure deficit, Ezekwesili underlined recent rapid growth of information and communications technology as a success story of policy reform.

“We are using the performance of the telecom sector to say that – in Africa you can actually model your behavior in terms of how you regulate a sector to be attractive”.

The number of mobile phone users on the continent rose from 10 million in 2000 to 180 million in 2007.

[The New Times]


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