On behalf of the Executive Board and the staff of the IMF, I would like to welcome you all to Washington, and thank the World Bank-IMF Africa Club for hosting the Africa Forum 2000. My presence here this morning is testimony to the great importance we attach to promoting private sector involvement and development in Africa. Indeed, it is now generally acknowledged that Africa needs the private sector to help it grow, prosper, and reduce poverty.
What is not widely discussed is that the private sector has needs as well. Indeed, as you well know, the private sector will only invest and develop in an environment where macroeconomic policies are sound and predictable; where labor is qualified; where the infrastructure is solid; where the regulatory framework is efficient and transparent; where good governance in corporate and public affairs exists; where there is a judicial system that is fair and accessible to all; and, perhaps above all, where the government has made a clear commitment to private sector development. The IMF is doing its part to bring these elements together through our policy advice, our technical assistance, and our financial support for reform and adjustment programs.
I want to assure you today that the IMF will stay fully engaged in Africa, and will continue to help African countries achieve faster and more sustained growth and reduce poverty. But you and I know that success will not come overnight and that, in spite of the gains achieved in growth rates and per capita incomes in the majority of African countries, many challenges remain. Africa needs higher investment and even higher growth if it wants to be able to reduce poverty and improve the living conditions of its people. Africa must also complete its integration in the globalized world economy to benefit fully from expanding trade and gain access to private foreign capital.
This is where the development of a vibrant private sector is so vital. As I have indicated to the Executive Board, to the staff, and to every African leader I have met, the development of a vibrant private sector, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises that you represent here today, is essential to growth and poverty reduction in Africa. Let there be no mistake about your importance in this process: you are the engine of growth and prosperity; and you are the ones who will create tomorrow’s jobs and tomorrow’s opportunities. So it is my hope that this forum will allow you to reinforce existing relationships—and create new ones—with your foreign counterparts and among yourselves, and that together you will contribute to building a stronger Africa, active in the globalized economy.
I would like to conclude by reaffirming the IMF’s endorsement and support for the World Bank—IMF Africa Club and to thank you for making this event possible. By joining their efforts to those of Africa’s governments and international development partners, and to those of the private sector participants in Africa, you have made concrete the commitment we all share to overcome the many difficulties facing the continent and to help it realize its true potential.