* Investment in poor country grows 31.5 percent
* World Bank lends $100 million for building roads
By Barry Malone
Addis Ababa, June 4 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s economy has grown by an annual average of 11.18 percent over the last four years on improved infrastructure and significant growth in investment, its state news agency said on Friday.
Although still one of the world’s poorest countries, the Horn of Africa nation has posted the fastest growth rates of all non-oil producing sub Saharan countries in recent years.
“The investment sector’s growth stands at 31.5 per cent,” the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said, citing Finance Minister Sufian Ahmed.
“The existence of suitable investment policies, speeding up of the privatization process, and the expansion of infrastructure are major factors for the increase.”
ENA said the agriculture sector grew 8.5 percent over the period, industrial growth stood at 9.9 percent and the services sector rose by 14.65 percent.
Ethiopia, Africa’s top coffee exporter, is overwhelmingly reliant on agricultural exports and earned $1.5 billion from them in 2008/09.
The country is a growing destination for foreign investment in large-scale farming, hydropower dams and oil and gas exploration.
The government says it expects growth of about 10 percent for 2010. The International Monetary Fund predicts growth of over 5 percent.
Opposition parties say the government inflates the growth figures to attract investment and that growth has not filtered down to the poor in a country where last year 13 million out of 80 million people needed food aid.
The news agency also announced on Friday that the World Bank had signed a deal to lend Ethiopia $100 million for a road construction.
The landlocked country has spent $3.6 billion over the past 10 years on building 101,359 km (62,940 miles) of asphalt and gravel roads with just over a third of that amount provided by the International Development Agency, the European Union and Japan. The Ethiopian government paid the rest.
The government has focused on improving links to the country’s northern tourist sites and regions producing export crops like coffee.
The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi inherited only 18,000 km of roads when it overthrew a communist regime in 1991.
Meles, who has led Horn of Africa country for almost 20 years, last week won five more years of power in a landslide election victory the European Union and the United States said was not up to international standards. (Editing by Richard Lough and Toby Chopra)