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World Bank Official Calls Africa “The Economic Crisis Of Our Planet″

September 17, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Falling commodity prices, rising debt, undependable weather conditions and political tensions make Africa ″the economic crisis of our planet,″ a top World Bank official said Thursday.

Edward Jaycox, the bank’s vice president for Africa, said the continent, excluding mineral-rich South Africa, is ″the No. 1 challenge in development.″

His remarks came as the bank released an annual report for fiscal 1987 that underscores the problems facing Africa nations, the majority of which gained independence from colonial powers in the 1960s.

The bank’s report divides Africa into two sections: Western Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa.

Although countries vary, Jaycox said that, overall, the gross national product for countries in Africa has stagnated since 1980. He called Africa ″clearly, the economic crisis of our planet.″

In Eastern and Southern Africa, the bank’s report said that ″most countries in the region have experienced an erosion in their standard of living since the early 1970s.″

Nevertheless, there was some encouraging news in 1986: per capita real income rose slightly in the region, in part because of a surge in food production and a drop in oil prices, the report said.

Still, the region faces tough challenges in the future, the report said. They include controlling population growth, improving education, employing women and persuading skilled workers to stay in their homelands.

West Africa’s situation in 1986 was bleaker, the report said. ″The further deterioration in the international terms of trade was the principal culprit,″ it said. Last year, commodity prices, in real terms, fell to below the 1932 level.

Moreover, countries were hampered by debt in their effort to make reforms, it said. ″Mounting debt-service difficulties threaten the implementation of reform programs,″ the report said. Nigeria and the Ivory Coast account for well over half the region’s debt.

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