Kofi Annan: African leaders risk squandering growth

Cocoa beans in Abidjan, Ivory Coast The cocoa trade in Ivory Coast has been hit badly by the recent political crisis

The poor quality of leadership in Africa risks squandering the continent's rapid economic growth, former UN chief Kofi Annan has warned.

Addressing a World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa, he criticised African leaders for clinging onto power rather than developing their economies.

Africa-wide growth rates of 5.5% were impressive, he said.

But he said a "leadership deficit" meant little was being done to create jobs and lift millions out of poverty.

Spread of revolutionary fever

The former UN secretary general, who is from Ghana, criticised what he called "low-quality growth" - the over-reliance on unprocessed commodities and insufficient investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.

He lamented that leaders failed to develop their economies by harnessing resources to deepen trade between African nations and said economic growth must lead to new jobs for young people.

He also pointed to the revolutions in North Africa, saying it was "supreme arrogance" for leaders to seek to stay in power for 30 years.

"Those who have served two or three terms should make plans for their future out of government," he told the BBC.

Mr Annan said the wave of unrest reminded him of the days of decolonisation.

"When one country becomes independent, another wants it. I see no reason why people now won't want to do the same."

The BBC's Karen Allen in Cape Town, where more than 900 leaders are meeting at the World Economic Forum, says Mr Annan also singled out South Sudan.

Earlier this year the region voted in a referendum to split from northern Sudan - and in July it will become Africa's newest nation.

It is one of the least developed regions in the world after several decades of civil war.

Mr Annan said the new country will need attentive leadership so that the potential of its substantial agricultural and mineral wealth is fully realised.

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