Forecast: Sub-Saharan growth to take longer, says World Bank

Workers sew clothes inside the Indochine Apparel PLC textile factory in Hawassa Industrial Park in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region, Ethiopia November 17, 2017. [AFP]
The World Bank (WB) has cut its growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa this year to 2.8 per cent from an initial 3.3 per cent, it said yesterday.

The commodity price slump of 2015 cut short a decade of rapid growth for the region, and the bank said growth would take longer to recover as a decline in industrial production and a trade dispute between China and the US take their toll.

The bank’s 2019 forecast means economic growth will lag population growth for the fourth consecutive year and it will remain stuck below three per cent, which it slipped to in 2015.

In its latest report on the regional economy, the bank also cut its 2018 growth estimate to 2.3 per cent from last October’s prediction of 2.7 per cent growth for last year.

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“The slower-than-expected overall growth reflects ongoing global uncertainty, but increasingly comes from domestic macroeconomic instability including poorly managed debt, inflation, and deficits,” the bank said.

Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, which make up about 60 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s annual economic output, were all facing various challenges, curbing their contribution to the growth momentum, the bank said.

“This downward revision reflects slower growth in Nigeria and Angola, due to challenges in the oil sector, and subdued investment growth in South Africa, due to low business confidence,” it said.

Policy uncertainty

Nigeria’s economy grew by an estimated 1.9 per cent last year, up from 0.8 per cent the previous year, the Brettonwoods Institution said, reflecting a modest pick-up in the non-oil sector.

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South Africa came out of recession in the third quarter of last year but investors were still cautious due to policy uncertainty, the bank said.

Angola, remained stuck in recession, as oil production remained weak. Rates of debt in the region are growing and the type of borrowing that countries are undertaking is exposing them to vulnerabilities, it said.

Rates of debt in the region are growing and the type of borrowing that countries are undertaking is exposing them to vulnerabilities, it said.

“By the end of 2018, nearly half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa covered under the Low-Income Country Debt Sustainability Framework were at high risk of debt distress or in debt distress, more than double the number in 2013.”

Economies that do not depend on commodities such as Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Benin and Ivory Coast, continued to grow strongly, the bank said in the report.

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WB chief economist for Africa Albert Zeufack, said the region could boost annual growth by about two percentage points if it harnesses information technology more effectively.

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World BankSub-Saharan africaEconomic growth