Rodrigo de Rato traveled to Africa in May for his third visit as IMF Managing Director, mainly to sound out political and civil society leaders for their views on the IMF's role in the region.His trip included stops in Nigeria, Benin,Niger, and Chad.Among the recurring themes, de Rato stressed the IMF's continuing commitments to provide technical assistance in IMF core areas of expertise and to actively urge rich countries to discontinue trade-distorting agricultural policies.
With the highest growth rate in a decade and the lowest inflation in a quarter of a century, Africa now has a unique opportunity to boost growth, raise living standards, and reduce poverty, IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato told African leaders at the African Development Bank's Annual Meetings Symposium in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 17. His remarks came at the beginning of a fournation tour, which also included visits to Benin, Niger, and Chad. He exchanged views with a variety of political and civil society leaders on the IMF's role in Africa and the external support, including debt relief, needed to help poor countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
He also urged major African cotton producers at a Benin conference to step up efforts to improve the sector's efficiency and avoid resorting to subsidies to support producer prices in the face of the large decline in world cotton prices.
Nigeria. Speaking at the African Development Bank symposium, de Rato underscored the IMF's commitment to help Africa close the gap between economic performance and growth potential. "This gap must be addressed if African countries are to grow at the levels sufficient to achieve sustained improvements in standards of living and to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding labor force," de Rato said. Africa's growth reached an eight-year high of nearly 5 percent in 2004, with inflation under control, but growth of at least 7 percent a year is needed to reach the MDGs. The IMF can provide policy advice, financial assistance, and capacity building, he said, stressing the latter as an integral element of the IMF's work in Africa. The focus in capacity building should be on financial sector reform, public resource management, and trade reform.
During a meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, de Rato...