The annual World Economic Forum on Africa has opened with calls for local leaders to show greater responsibility and turn the global economic downturn to the continent’s advantage.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan and Mozambican first lady Graca Machel said Africa would continue to need aid. But they also said it had the potential to become a net food and energy exporter and to boost inter-continental trade.

In a report, they urged greater investment to overcome bottlenecks in infrastructure, transport and communications.

The forum, which opened Wednesday in Cape Town, is attended by leading politicians and businessmen from around the continent.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.