The Africa Competitiveness Report 2011 comes out as the world emerges from the most significant financial and economic crisis in generations. While many advanced economies are still struggling to get their economies back on a solid footing, Africa has, for the most part, weathered the storm remarkably well.
Indeed, despite a small dip in growth during the crisis period, Africa has staged a quick and strong comeback.
Between 2001 and 2010, growth in gross domestic product (GDP) on the continent averaged 5.2 percent annually, with the African Economic Outlook (AEO) projecting 5.2 percent growth in 2011 as well, higher than the global average of 4.2 percent projected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The key challenge for the continent is how to turn the ongoing recovery into strong, sustained, and shared growth that will lead to notable improvements in people's lives.
Other key findings of the Report:
* Diversifying products and markets. African countries have much to gain by diversifying exports and by further opening up regional trade. Despite improving over recent decades, Africa's share in world trade remains low, it is heavily concentrated in natural resources, and intra-African trade is particularly limited. Regional integration can also help African countries become more competitive and resilient to external shocks.
* Upgrading managerial skills and higher education. Higher education enrolment remains extremely low by international standards. And the areas of higher education undertaken by a majority of African students are not in the fields of science, engineering technology and business. The result is a skills mismatch-university graduates remain unemployed, while African countries continue to face shortages of skilled labor.
* Expanding women's entrepreneurship. The rate of women's entrepreneurship is high in Africa-higher than in any other region. However, this is not necessarily a sign of economic empowerment. This is because women are concentrated in the informal, micro, low-growth, and low-profit areas. The report shows that while women are less likely to be operating larger firms in higher-value-added sectors, those who do so in fact manage firms that perform equally well as those run by men. What is critical is not to increase entrepreneurship per se, but rather to enable women to move into higher-value-added activities.
* Reaping the full benefits of tourism. Africa's rich natural and cultural resources represent a major unexploited endowment through Travel & Tourism, with the potential to generate significant employment, growth and poverty reduction. The region has many advantages on which to build its tourism industry, including price competitiveness, a strong affinity for tourism, and rich natural resources supported by efforts toward environmental sustainability. However, a number of obstacles remain to developing the sector, notably improving safety and security, upgrading health and hygiene levels, developing infrastructure and access to African sites, and fostering the region's human capital.
See full Report here
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