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IMF boss hails "remarkable" African growth

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde hailed the leaps made by African economies in the last decade as "nothing short of remarkable."

MAPUTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde on Wednesday hailed the leaps made by African economies in the last decade as "nothing short of remarkable."

On the eve of a major conference in Maputo that will bring together policymakers from across the region, Lagarde said it was time to kick start the "next phase of its economic development."

The sub-Saharan Africa region is expected to grow at more than five per cent this year according to the IMF's latest projections, after similar growth last year.

But there was a note of caution amid the breakneck economic expansion.

"There is still a long way ahead to meet the aspirations of the continent: extreme poverty is still too prevalent and there are new challenges posed by the global economy," she said.

As policymakers take stock of Africa's strong economic performance, many are also looking at the risks that lie ahead.

The region could face lower demand for its exports should growth slow in increasingly important emerging markets like Brazil, India and, in particular, China.

Beijing is a top buyer of African resources from copper to oil and gas.

In rapidly growing cities like Maputo the Chinese presence is manifest, from a Chinese-built airport to the country's businessmen chattering on cell phones as they walk from meeting to meeting.

But poverty perhaps remains the continent's biggest challenge.

Ahead of the meeting, rights groups questioned the current optimistic view of "Africa's rise."

"Africa is not rising for ordinary citizens," said Oxfam International's Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, who said she intended raising issues of growing inequality at the IMF conference.

She added that tax dodging multi-nationals were draining revenue from the continent.

"We have six of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world, and the fastest rising number of dollar millionaires of any other region in the world.

"Yet Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six out of the 10 most unequal countries in the world. The 50 richest people in Africa own about 15 per cent of Africa's GDP," Byanyima added.

The conference's host nation Mozambique, provides a stark example.

According to Byanyima, it is still one of the poorest countries in the world despite recording galloping economic growth of over seven per cent a year over the past decade.

Two decades after the end of a devastating civil war the country is experiencing vast foreign capital inflows on the back of coal and natural gas discoveries.

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