IMF Chief: Africa’s Biggest Economic Challenge is Jobs

Posted December 17th, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Christine Lagarde is making her first trip to Africa as the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund to discuss the continent's cooperation with the global financial institution.

Ahead of the trip which starts Sunday, Lagarde said Africa's biggest economic challenge is the need to create more jobs on a continent with more than 900 million people, half of whom are under the age of 20.

“This young population is both the strength of Africa as well as its major challenge because we all want our children to have jobs. So, to that end, clearly African governments have the responsibility to create the environment where both the private sector and the public sector feels confident investing in African countries in order to create the job opportunities for the young people.”

Lagarde said the world economy is in a critical phase, and that the IMF is working to help all member countries. She says African economies are evolving to diversify trade, making them less vulnerable to economic downturns in Europe. She says many African countries are trying to move away from years of over-reliance on commerce with former colonial powers.

“There is clearly a tendency now to trade regionally more, and to also trade with Asian countries. This is a recent development, which is good for African countries because it allows them to hedge their position and not be excessively at risk of what is happening in Europe, for instance.”

During the trip, Lagarde will meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She will also take part in a round-table discussion in Lagos on Africa's response to global economic challenges, with members of the private sector, academia, and civil society.

In Niger, Lagarde will meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou and join a Cabinet meeting on economic development. She will address the National Assembly and meet with private sector financial leaders.

In a statement this past Monday, Lagarde said she will hear from policymakers, the African private sector, and civil society about the challenges facing African countries and underline the IMF's commitment to further reinforce its partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa.

Her visit to the continent ends Thursday.