ADDIS ABABA, May 11 (Reuters) - Rising inequality across Africa could curtail the continent’s economic gains, a leading think-tank said on Friday, warning governments they risked instability unless unemployment and hunger were tackled.
In its annual report, the Africa Progress Panel lauded the continent’s growth, saying 70 percent of Africa’s total population now lived in countries that have recorded growth rates of more than four percent in the last decade.
It noted, however, that most countries were not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, while there was minimal progress on education, child nutrition and maternal health.
Despite rapid economic growth creating a growing middle class, only four percent earned more than $10 a day with half of the population living below $1.25, said the report launched on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for Africa.
“Disparities in basic life-chances - for health, education and participation in society - are preventing millions of Africans from realising their potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process,” said former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the panel’s chair.
The continent’s youth population is set to nearly double from the turn of the century to 246 million by 2020, with 74 million jobs needed in 10 years to stop rising unemployment.
“Failure to create jobs and opportunity for a rapidly growing and increasingly urbanised and educated youth population may have catastrophic consequences, socially, economically and politically,” the report said.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s economies, buoyed by expanding agricultural output, will enjoy growth of more than 5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
East Africa, which has been hit by drought, grew by 5.8 percent in 2011, with rising investment on agriculture in Ethiopia boosting growth to around seven percent.
Despite massive improvement on food security, more than 200 million people still need humanitarian aid, the report said.
“Africa is on its way to becoming a preferred investment destination, a potential pole of global growth, and a place of immense innovation and creativity,” said Annan.
“But there is also a long way to go, and Africa’s governments must as a matter of urgency turn their attention to those who are being left behind.”