Africa must harness potential

CAPE TOWN - Fast-growing Africa could be a dominant force in the world's economic landscape for decades to come if the continent gets its act together, top Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill said Tuesday.

Africa was "one part of the world that has got a very high growth rate that is accelerating," said O'Neill, the firm's asset management chairman, pointing to a forecast of six percent growth this decade.

But to harness the boom, African leaders must improve technology, education and the rule of law, including reducing corruption, he said.

"If all of those things happen, this is going to be Africa's decade," he told an African Venture Capital Association conference.

Responsible for coming up with the BRIC acronym - the Brazil, Russia, India and China grouping - O'Neill has questioned South Africa's inclusion in the grouping among its bigger partners.

A role for South Africa was to act to allow the continent to "economically behave as one" through infrastructure and trade links, he said.

"Because if it can, then my goodness me, it is not only the next decade, it is going to be the next three or four."

On BRICS, he said the development bank was potentially the "first real sign" of joint action by the political leaders of the grouping.

"South Africa has a big role to play and probably quite a responsibility in being some kind of genuine gateway to helping the rest of Africa become more successful," he said.

"The scale of the changes that are going on means that sometime this decade, probably in the next two years, the BRICS countries collectively will become bigger than the US."

- AFP

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