Africa's growth to slump to 2% in 2009

ADDIS ABABA: Africa's growth rate is expected to slow to a 20-year low of two percent in 2009, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said Thursday.

Africa had previously recorded a growth rate of 5.1 percent in 2008 and six percent the previous year.

"We've never had negative growth in the continent as a whole, but this year our two percent forecast is the same as recorded during the 'lost decades' of the mid-1970s, 1980s and mid-1990s," Adam Elhiraika, head of macroeconomic analysis at UNECA, told AFP.

"It is definitely the worst we'll see in twenty years," he said on the sidelines of a meeting that launched a joint UN-African Union report on the continent's economic performance.

The forecast for 2009 has been revised downwards with every new estimate, the latest being the African Development Bank's prediction of a 2.3 percent continent-wide growth earlier this month.

The report said the global slowdown has resulted in lower demand for Africa's exports and a sharp decline in commodity prices, making it even harder to tackle poverty.

"In order to cut public spending and maintain fiscal stability, many countries will be forced to reduce spending on development projects and cut some services," it said.

"This will threaten progress towards attaining the Millenium Development Goals, and many people are likely to fall back into poverty."

Inflation is expected to slow this year due to lower energy and commodity prices, the report added, but drought will continue to affect some countries and food prices will remain "above historical levels".