Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

IMF Survey : Infrastructure, Natural Resources Key to Inclusive Growth in Africa

October 13, 2013

  • Investment in infrastructure can boost intra-regional trade in Africa
  • Natural resources, commodities are engines of strong short-term growth
  • Africa can stimulate growth by investing in energy and human capital

African countries are focusing on improving their infrastructure and managing their natural resource wealth to achieve broad based inclusive growth.

Port of Abidjan, Cote d’ivoire. Investments in infrastructure are  key to boosting growth in Africa (photo: Luc Gnago/Reuters).

Port of Abidjan, Cote d’ivoire. Investments in infrastructure are  key to boosting growth in Africa (photo: Luc Gnago/Reuters).


Speaking to reporters during the IMF-World Bank Annual meetings in Washington, D.C., African finance ministers stressed that Africa needs to strengthen the implementation of structural reforms in order to maintain the annual average growth of around 5 percent over the past few years and significantly reduce poverty.

Ministers also emphasized that current developments in the world economy affected Africa’s growth. “We are concerned that the increased downside risks to the global economy will impact negatively on Africa's trade flows and financing opportunities. We are also worried about the uncertainty regarding the unwinding of unconventional monetary policies, and the threat of potentially devastating budgetary challenges in the United States, which, if left unaddressed, could derail the fragile recovery we experienced last year across the world,” said Amara Konneh, Minister of Finance, Liberia

Looking at the medium-term, ministers also noted the significant efforts African countries have made to improve human capital through education and training with the aim of reducing poverty. However, they also acknowledge much more needed to be done. “We have noted the weaknesses of our education system. Professional education is not up to par. Our education system needs to be reformed in order to meet the requirements of our economy and the requirements and demands of our society”, said Luc Oyoubi, Finance Minister of Gabon

Armando Manuel, Finance Minister of Angola, told reporters that as part of its national development agenda, Angola has implemented a training plan for its civil servants. “There is a new strategy in place because Angola has understood that the wealth of a country cannot only be measured by its natural resources, but also by its human capital.  And this is a challenge the country is taking on--to form the skilled workers to achieve the objectives of economic development,” said Manuel.

Luc Oyoubi, Minister of Economy of Gabon and Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, also said they intended for their countries to become emerging markets by 2015 and 2020, respectively

Reforming the Infrastructure Deficit

In addition, ministers stressed the importance of addressing Africa’s infrastructure deficit. Konneh said the continent needed aggressive infrastructure projects to unleash its growth potential. “It is worth repeating here that the ability to travel from one side of our country to another side, and from one country to another, is almost a fundamental right; that the ability to travel between countries is necessary for trade, for business, and for sharing of knowledge and innovation,” said Konneh, the Liberian minister.

Finance Minister Manuel of Angola said reforms were being carried out in the energy sector to increase energy supply, and in the logistical sector to improve port, highway and railway systems. “We are attempting to ensure the continuity and the creation of basic needed infrastructure to improve the business environment, to create indicators that will attract private investment,” he added.

Prime Minister Duncan said that Cote d’Ivoire was using its oil reserves to become a producer for the region. He also added that the country was working closely with several other African countries in the region, including Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, to provide electricity in Western Africa.

Natural Resources Management

The importance of natural resources to achieve short-term growth in Africa was also highlighted. Minister Oyoubi of Gabon said that oil exports helped Gabon achieve growth of 6 percent this year. “We do not base ourselves on illusions. Oil will not last forever, and oil prices could change at any time.  For this reason, we have implemented an ambitious program which is the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan”, he said. He added that the country was planning to diversify away from oil by strengthening human capital and governance.

Minister Konneh said that the mining sector in Liberia was expected to be an important source of strong growth. He stressed that expanding the non-mining sector, and particularly agriculture, would be crucial to achieving broad-based and inclusive growth. “Natural resources continue to play an important role in our economy. Iron ore, timber, and rubber dominate our exports. So the management of these natural resources becomes crucial for the government, and land access is going to be key,” he added.

Minister Manuel said that Angola had learned lessons from the global financial crisis and adjusted its fiscal policies to create buffers to protect its economy from volatility in the price of oil. “We established the Angolan Sovereign Fund to ensure savings for future generations, encourage the diversification of the economy and also provide instruments for greater stability in the country,” he said.