Violent conflicts may have dropped in Africa in recent years but post-conflict recovery remains a daunting challenge, said the African Development Bank in a report published ahead of the bank's annual meetings on May 13-14 in Dakar, Senegal.

According to the African Development Report, Africa has suffered from violent conflict within and between states more than any other part of the world in the second half of the 20th century.

"Between 1990 and 2005, Africa accounted for about half of the world's battle deaths – the number of people killed in battle. Yet, in situations of conflict far more people die from disease, starvation, malnutrition, and breakdown of health services than from battle," the report said.

From 14 African countries in the 1990s, only six are still in conflict in 2009. But those that have emerged from conflict situations have a lot to deal with.

"They have to solve the problems of rehabilitating combatants and meet the challenges of education, health and infrastructures while their economic and financial capacities are very weak," explained Leonce Ndikumana, director of AfDB's research department.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in a report, warned tensions could explode or be reignited in the region due to the global economic crisis.

"There are signs of increasing political tension that cannot be ignored," it said. "Although several governments managed the situation in 2008 by implementing support measures and containing social discontent, the situation is likely to be more challenging in 2009, in a context of reduced public resources."

In 2008, the AfDB initiated a plan to engage more efficiently with fragile states. AfDB President Donald Kaberuka pointed out that sound economic policies for promoting post-conflict recovery and peace are critical.

Furthermore, the report cited the need for greater coordination of donor intervention.

The boards of governors of the AfDB and African Development Fund will discuss an agenda for action to support the region through the global downturn.

Kaberuka pointed out the dangers of the crisis for African nations.

He said in a speech on May 12: "History tells us that in countries like ours, when economic times are bad, social indicators, such as maternal and infant mortality, educational enrollment, completion rates, and women's employment opportunities decline rapidly, particularly in fragile states where weak institutions and limited fiscal space often make it impossible to offer safety nets."

About the author

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    Josefa Cagoco

    Sef Cagoco served as one of Devex's international development correspondent from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Her writing focused on social entrepreneurship and multilateral agencies such as the U.N. and Asian Development Bank. She previously worked as senior reporter for the national daily BusinessWorld and a production journalist for the Financial Times.