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Things looking up for Africa

The president of the African Development Bank said the economic outlook for Africa was improving and predicted growth of more than 6.5% for the continent in 2007.

„Africa is better poised for economic prosperity and better governance than it has been for decades,” Donald Kaberuka said, adding, however, that parts of the continent were lagging behind and continued to be plagued by conflict, poverty and high population growth. Kaberuka spoke in Shanghai as the bank opened its annual meeting, the second one to be held outside Africa and the first in Asia.

Economic growth last year was 5.5%, up from the average annual growth of 5% over the past six years and its best rate in 20 years. Kaberuka attributed the improvement to strong foreign demand for Africa’s natural resources, better weather for agriculture, better economic governance and an improved business climate. One of the countries feeding demand for Africa’s natural resources is China, which is seeking fuel for its economic boom and has been buying up Africa’s petroleum, minerals and timber while it has also been criticized for cooperating with repressive regimes in Africa.

To consolidate its ties with the continent, Beijing hosted a forum with African leaders in November, at which the participants pledged to double their trade volume to $100 billion by 2010 as China promised to double its development aid to Africa, boost its trade and investment, and write off more African debt after already forgiving 10.9 billion yuan ($1.42 billion) in debt. „China has a deep friendship with African countries and sincerely supports the peaceful development of Africa,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said at Wednesday’s opening ceremony in remarks carried by the Shanghai Daily.

China, which became a member of the bank in 1985, would continue to offer aid to African countries through the African Development Bank and other institutions and would seek to improve ties through closer government and business cooperation, Wen said at the start of the two-day meeting, which is to focus on infrastucture development and poverty relief. (