African Competitiveness Report: AIDS Crisis Taking An Economic Toll

May 11, 2000
Sarah Abrams

Adult mortality rates in some African countries, which in the last two years have more than doubled due to AIDS deaths, are having a tremendous economic impact according to this year’s African Competitiveness Report.

In some of the hardest hit countries, such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia, businesses are now training three to four people for each skilled job, according to Sara Sievers, executive director of the Center for International Development (CID) which jointly produced the report with the World Economic Forum. Some companies are restricting employee attendance at AIDS funerals to just immediate family. Estimates suggest that in some nations GDP growth is being reduced by 1%, which for some countries could mean a 20-25% slowdown in their rate of economic growth.

"Where are the workers going to come from and where are the orphans going to go?" said Lisa Cook editor of the African Competitiveness Report and deputy director for Africa research at CID. "This is the type of thing you don’t see except during periods like the Bubonic Plague."

The bi-annual African Competitiveness Report analyses the comparative strengths and weaknesses of 26 countries in Africa providing information for leaders in business and public policy to assess each country’s competitiveness in the global context. The document is of use to both foreign and local investors who want more information on opportunities and changes taking place in Africa.

The report provides updated information on population, life expectancy, and gross domestic product and economic developments, structural reforms, and makes predictions for each country’s long-term viability. Additionally the current major issues affecting African countries — such as AIDS, e-commerce, natural resources, and trade are explored. More than 60 researchers, including local African authors, are involved in the project.

Attention is given to the impact of new technologies on African nations. Africa is in a good position to capture many of the new wireless technologies. Africa lacks critical infrastructure for older technologies such as roads and electricity. These newer technologies circumvent a lot of the infrastructure investment.

The soon-to-be-released Africa Competitiveness Report is the only benchmarking exercise on Africa prepared on an ongoing basis, according to Cook. "There is such a paucity of information about Africa that this report generates a significant public good," she said.

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