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African growth strong but unemployment high: AfDB

[ABIDJAN] Africa's strong growth will accelerate in 2019 but fail to roll back high unemployment and poverty, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Thursday.

The continent's gross domestic product expanded by 3.5 per cent in 2018 after 3.6 percent in 2017 and should reach 4.0 per cent in 2019 and 4.1 per cent in 2020, it said in its annual forecast.

"The state of the continent is good. Africa's general economic performance continues to improve, but it remains insufficient to address the structural challenges," AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina was quoted as saying.

The biggest engine of growth is East Africa, whose GDP grew 5.7 per cent in 2018, forecast to rise to 5.9 per cent this year and 6.1 per cent in 2020.

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The laggard is southern Africa, whose economy grew by a miserly 1.2 per cent in 2018, forecast to rise to 2.2 per cent in 2019 and 2.8 per cent in 2020. A poor performance by South Africa is the main cause for the region's relatively lower growth.

The report, African Economic Outlook 2019, turned a spotlight on population growth.

The number of people of working age is expected to rise from 705 million in 2018 to nearly a billion in 2030, it said.

"At the current rate of labour force growth, Africa needs to create about 12 million new jobs every year to prevent unemployment from rising," it warned.

The report put forward five actions that, it said, could bring growth to 4.5 per cent, making inroads into joblessness and poverty.

The suggested focus is on creating a "borderless Africa" where business could flourish, creating higher-value jobs in the industrial sector especially.

Recommendations include eliminating all bilateral tariffs in Africa, scrapping all non-tariff barriers on goods and services and "keeping rules of origin, simple, flexible and transparent."

Without major structural change, most new jobs would probably be in the "informal sector", where pay is low and job security is tenuous, threatening the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, the report warned.

AFP