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Keeping Africa's Turnaround on Track

MONROVIA – For more than a decade, much of Africa has been moving forward. Economic growth is rising, poverty is falling and democratic governance is spreading. But the global financial crisis threatens to undo this progress by reducing investment, exports and aid just as they should be expanding to build on these successes.

While international attention has been understandably focused on events in Darfur, Somalia and Zimbabwe, countries across the continent including Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Liberia have been quietly turning their economies around. Economic growth rates regularly exceed 5% in many nations.  The key to this progress is stronger African leadership and more accountable governance. Today, more than 20 African countries are democracies, up from just three in the 1980’s. They have competitive elections and improved human rights, and a much freer media. These efforts have been supported by increasingly effective development assistance.

Consider what has happened in my country, Liberia. After 14 years of devastating war, we faced enormous challenges. Our democratically elected government has worked with international partners and a growing number of private investors to turn things around.

In the past three years, we have doubled primary school enrollment nationwide, refurbished hundreds of health facilities, begun rebuilding roads and restoring electricity. We have taken steps to root out corruption and remove unscrupulous officials. Growth has exceeded several percent per year. And, most critical, we are at peace. We are restoring our once-vibrant nation, and the crucial component -- hope -- has already been revived. Without international support, we would not have made this progress and would be at much greater risk of returning to war.