Reprioritisation needed as African growth slows

4th October 2022

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


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Global headwinds are slowing Africa’s economic growth as countries continue to contend with rising inflation, hindering progress on poverty reduction, the World Bank’s latest Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term regional macroeconomic outlook, indicates.

It adds that the risk of stagflation comes at a time when high interest rates and debt are forcing African governments to make difficult choices as they try to protect people’s jobs, purchasing power and development gains.

According to the analysis, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is set to decelerate from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% this year, a downward revision of 0.3 percentage points since April’s forecast, mainly as a result of a slowdown in global growth, including flagging demand from China for commodities produced in Africa.

The war in Ukraine is said to be exacerbating already high inflation and weighing on economic activity by depressing both business investments and household consumption.

As of July, 29 of 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with available information had inflation rates over 5%, while 17 countries had double-digit inflation.

“These trends compromise poverty reduction efforts that were already set back by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What is most worrisome is the impact of high food prices on people struggling to feed their families, threatening long-term human development. This calls for urgent action from policymakers to restore macro-economic stability and support the poorest households while reorienting their food and agriculture spending to achieve future resilience,” says World Bank chief economist for Africa Andrew Dabalen.

The World Bank says elevated food prices are causing hardships with severe consequences in one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. Hunger has sharply increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, driven by economic shocks, violence and conflict, as well as extreme weather.

More than one in five people in Africa suffer from hunger and an estimated 140-million people faced acute food insecurity this year, up from 120-million people in 2021, according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022 Mid-Year Update.

According to the World Bank, the interconnected crises come at a time when the fiscal space required to mount effective government responses is not there.

In many countries, public savings have been depleted by earlier programmes to counter the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, though resource-rich countries in some cases have benefited from high commodity prices and managed to improve their balance sheet, it adds.

According to the Pulse, debt in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to stay elevated at 58.6% of gross domestic product this year.

African governments spent 16.5% of their revenues servicing external debt in 2021, up from less than 5% in 2010.

Eight out of 38 Industrial Development Association-eligible countries in the region are in debt distress, and 14 are at high risk of joining them.

At the same time, high commercial borrowing costs make it difficult for countries to borrow on national and international markets, while tightening global financial conditions are weakening currencies and increasing African countries’ external borrowing costs.

The World Bank emphasises that this challenging environment makes it essential to improve the efficiency of existing resources and to optimise taxes. 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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