Don’t Shut the Door on Africa

VIENNA – These days, a dollar won’t get you very far in a rich economy. But in a poor country like the one I come from, Sierra-Leone, even half a dollar can save a life or feed an entire family. Every penny invested in Africa counts today and to secure Africa’s future.

Experts are unanimous: the financial, food and energy crisis will hammer the “bottom billion” – the poorest in some 60 countries that survive on around a dollar a day – the hardest. Because of the crisis, many African countries are likely to miss the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction.

The continent has made some significant socio-economic gains over the last decade. I’ve seen this for myself during recent travels to Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa. These gains include, to name a few: free-market reforms, liberalization of economies, the steady introduction of pro-business environments, empowerment of women, education. But most of these gains are now seriously threatened.

The financial crisis has dealt a blow to remittances. Migrants are losing their jobs or struggling to set aside cash for their relatives back home. The World Bank's latest global economic outlook suggests remittances will fall by 5% to 8% this year.