The World Bank yesterday said it expected growth in sub-Saharan Africa this year to rise to between 2.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent, compared with the 2.7 per cent it projected for the region in January. The bank, which made the forecast in its latest Africa Pulse report titled, “The Future of Work in Africa: Emerging Trends in Digital Technology Adoption,” however, said its projection depended on policies adopted by countries and the international community.
Although the report notes that a slower spread of the virus and lower COVID- 19-related mortality, strong agricultural growth, as well as a faster-thanexpected recovery in commodity prices have helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 crisis on many African economies, recovery will hinge on countries’ deepening reforms that create jobs, encourage investment, and enhance competitiveness. According to the report, the resurgence of the pandemic in late 2020 and limited additional fiscal support will pose a challenge for policy makers as they continue to work toward stronger growth and improved livelihoods for their people.
It also said that a second wave of COVID-19 infections was partly dragging down the 2021 growth projections, with daily infections about 40 per cent higher than during the first wave. The report pointed out that while some countries had a significant drop in infections due to containment measures adopted by their governments, others are facing an upward trend in infections. Forecasting a real GDP growth of 3.1 per cent for the region in 2022, the World Bank said that economic activity for most sub- Saharan Africa countries would remain well below the pre-COVID-19 projections at the end of 2021, thereby increasing the risk of long-lasting damage from the pandemic on people’s living standards.
The bank stated that recovery in the region was expected to vary across countries, with non-resource- intensive countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, and mining-dependent economies, such as Botswana and Guinea, likely to see robust growth in 2021, driven by a rebound in private consumption and investment as confidence strengthens and exports increase. Specifically, it stated that growth in the western and Central Africa sub-region contracted by 1.1 per cent in 2020, less than projected in October 2020 partly due to a less severe contraction in Nigeria, the sub-region’s largest economy, in the second half of the year. The bank said that it forecast real GDP for the sub-region to grow 2.1 per cent in 2021 and 3.0 per cent in 2022.
For the Eastern and Southern Africa sub-region, the World Bank said growth contraction for 2020 was estimated at -3.0 per cent, mostly driven by South Africa and Angola, the sub-region’s largest economies, adding that excluding Angola and South Africa, economic activity in the sub-region is projected to expand by 2.6 per cent in 2021, and 4.0 per cent in 2022. It notes that African countries can speed up their recovery by intensifying their existing efforts to support the economy and people in the near term, especially women, youth and other vulnerable groups.
The report recommends that such efforts should be complemented by reforms that foster nations’ inclusive productivity growth and competitiveness. It also notes that reforms that address digital infrastructure gaps and make the digital economy more inclusive–ensuring affordability but also building skills for all segments of society- are essential to improve connectivity, boost digital technology adoption and generate more and better jobs for men and women. In a statement released on the report, the World Bank said: “Reducing countries’ debt burdens will release resources for public investment, in areas such as education, health and infrastructure.
Investments in human capital will help lower the risk of long-lasting damage from the pandemic, which may become apparent over the longer term, and can enhance competitiveness and productivity. The next twelve months will be a critical period for leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area in order to deepen African countries’ integration into regional and global value chains.” Commenting on the report, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Albert Zeufack, said: “African countries have made tremendous investments over the last year to keep their economies afloat and protect the lives and livelihoods of their people.
“Ambitious reforms that support job creation, strengthen equitable growth, protect the vulnerable and contribute to environmental sustainability will be key to bolstering those efforts going forward toward a stronger recovery across the African continent.”