* African growth impressive despite global downturn
* Continent still struggling to end cycle of war
By Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, Jan 7 Africa's emerging nations have
become a driving force for world economic growth, International
Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said on Monday, but armed
conflicts pose the principal threat to the continent's future
Resource-rich African nations have continued to post
impressive growth even as the economies of Europe have stagnated
and a U.S. recovery makes only slow progress.
The IMF is projecting economic growth of 5.25 percent for
sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, a rate that places the region second
only to Asia's booming economies and well above a world forecast
of 3.6 percent.
"It's clear that emerging countries are the motor of world
economic growth," Lagarde said in a speech to lawmakers in top
cocoa producer Ivory Coast, which received over $4 billion in
debt relief under an IMF/World Bank programme last year.
"I cannot help but be impressed by the continent's
resilience ... in the face of the most serious disturbances seen
by the world's economy since the Great Depression," she said.
Africa's diverse mining sector, which offers everything from
copper and iron to diamonds and gold, is booming largely on
demand from Chinese industry. So too is its oil sector. And
investors are increasingly drawn to its growing and largely
untapped consumer markets.
These recent gains risk being undermined however by
lingering conflicts across much of the continent, Lagarde said.
"Security is too fragile in many countries and especially
here in West Africa. If there is no peace, the people simply
won't have the confidence or courage to invest in their own
future, and neither will (foreign investors)," she said.
West and Central African nations, which have long struggled
to stamp out the recurring cycles of political turmoil that have
plagued the region since independence a half century ago,
witnessed a surge in violence in 2012.
Islamists from Nigeria's Boko Haram sect carried out almost
daily deadly attacks in the regional giant's troubled north.
Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African
Republic gained ground and threatened to overthrow their
Fighters with links to al Qaeda took advantage of a military
coup in Mali to seize more than half of the country, raising
fears that the conflict could spill across its porous borders
and destabilise the region.
"Conflicts have disastrous consequences for the
belligerents. They also have consequences for neighbouring
countries. If I had to name the enemy number one of economic
development, it would clearly be conflicts," Lagarde said.
Ivory Coast, where Lagarde is spending three days as part of
a tour of Africa, emerged from a decade of political crisis
following a brief war in 2011.
Amid a much praised post-war economic turn around, the
country registered economic growth of more than 8.5 percent in
2012, following a 4.7 percent contraction in 2011.
But it too is struggling to cope with a series of regular,
deadly attacks on security forces and infrastructure sites that
began last August.