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Africa econs stronger in 2015?

Monday, January 05, 2015 - 02:47

Despite boosting investment and finding new and unique sources of revenue, African economies showed their vulnerability in 2014. Will they be more resilient this year? Joel Flynn reports.

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The Lagos skyline is a static scene, but on the streets of Nigeria's capital, change is afoot. This is now Africa's biggest economy. Attention from foreign investors has prompted an overhaul in GDP measurement. The huge consumer market in a country of 170 million people and a growing capital market luring interest from abroad. And that's made policy-makers rethink. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is finance minister. SOUNDBITE: Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, saying (English): "We don't want to risk solving the wrong problems because we don't have adequate information or statistics or solving problems in the wrong way that's why this rebasing is so important." This is a continent the IMF says is "taking off". But 2015 sees Nigeria trying to catch up with the challenges facing it. Despite years of roaring growth, infrastructure is poor - lack of power and bad roads both issues exacerbated by corruption. Falling oil prices have also hit hard. But there's still heavy interest in Africa's energy wealth - particularly from China. It signed deals in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola during a continent-wide tour by Premier Li Keqiang in 2014. Investment may be welcome, but there's worry China's interest might only be on resources. Joe Rundle is from ETX Capital. SOUNDBITE: ETX Capital Market Analyst, Joe Rundle, saying (English): "I know a lot of Chinese manufacturing is moving into the region, because it's cheaper than manufacturing in China now, so the growth has been reliant on external factors, and I'm not sure Africa's in a situation yet, and this is a general term, that they're self-sustaining yet." One economy that needs investment - the continent's most advanced, South Africa. Problems in the mining sector hit it hard last year - strikes by platinum workers shrinking the economy 0.6 percent in the first quarter. There are deeper problems too, says Kabelo Masike, economist at power utility giant, ESKOM. SOUNDBITE: ESKOM Chief Economist, Kabelo Masike, saying (English): "In order for us as an economy to reach a higher level of growth, sustainable level of growth that we need faster investments, that we need to improve on our skills compliment, that we need to have greater flexibility in the labor market in, and all of these things that need to be brought to bear." Some here see agriculture as the future. Africa's home to a quarter of the world's fertile land, but only a tenth of agricultural output. Despite a positive outlook, some of the biggest threats come from abroad. Slower growth in the world's advanced economies and emerging markets are risks seen everywhere. Pressure and opportunity in 2015 then, and eyes on how Africa stitches them together.

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Africa econs stronger in 2015?

Monday, January 05, 2015 - 02:47