In a report released earlier this week, the World Bank said growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remained slow through 2019, hampered by persistent uncertainty in the global economy and the slow pace of domestic reforms.
According to the 20th edition of Africa’s Pulse, the World Bank’s twice-yearly economic update for the region, overall growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise to 2.6% in 2019 from 2.5% in 2018, which is 0.2 percentage points lower than the April forecast.
Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist for Africa at the World Bank said this “anaemic growth” reflects three factors: “First, the deepening global trade tensions affecting the whole world, not just Africa. Second, the slow pace of domestic reforms, especially on debt management and efficiency of public sector institutions. Third, climate shocks such as the cyclone that affected Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi earlier this year – and alternating droughts and floods that are reducing farm production across Africa. All of this translates into a decline in exports and investments in African countries. In a way, governments, firms and individuals are not in a position to continue creating the jobs that are so desperately needed.”
This edition of Africa’s Pulse includes special sections on accelerating poverty reduction and promoting women’s empowerment.
The World Bank said global uncertainty is taking a toll on growth well beyond Africa, and real GDP growth is also expected to slow significantly in other emerging and developing regions. The Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, and South Asia regions are expected to see even larger downward revisions in their growth forecasts than in Sub-Saharan Africa for 2019.
Beyond Sub-Saharan Africa’s regional averages, the World Bank said the picture is mixed. The recovery in Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola – the region’s three largest economies – has remained weak and is weighing on the region’s prospects. In Nigeria, growth in the non-oil sector has been sluggish, while in Angola the oil sector remained weak. In South Africa, low investment sentiment is weighing on economic activity.
Excluding Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, The World Bank said growth in the rest of the subcontinent is expected to remain robust although slower in some countries. The average growth among non-resource-intensive countries is projected to edge down, reflecting the effects of tropical cyclones in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, political uncertainty in Sudan, weaker agricultural exports in Kenya, and fiscal consolidation in Senegal.
The World Bank said four in ten Africans, or over 416 million people, lived below 1.90 USD per day in 2015. Absent significant efforts to create economic opportunities and reduce risk for poor people, extreme poverty will become almost exclusively an African phenomenon by 2030.
According to Africa’s Pulse, the poverty agenda in Africa should put the poor in control, helping to accelerate the fertility transition, leverage the food system on and off the farm, address risk and conflict, and provide more and better public finance to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. A critical piece will be addressing gender gaps in health, education, empowerment, and jobs.
Zeufack said Africa is the only region in the world where women are more likely to be entrepreneurs than men, with African women contributing approximately 40 percent of agricultural labour across the continent. However, He noted that there are huge gaps in productivity and earnings that need to be addressed.
The Chief Economist for Africa said several solutions to reduce poverty are also solutions to empower women. He added, “African countries need to educate girls, especially young girls, keep them in school longer, and provide them with the skills they need for work. This will likely result in lower fertility, higher income and higher age at marriage.”
Zeufack said African countries also needed to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure and implement policies to mitigate risks from natural disasters, adding that “natural disasters tend to disproportionately impact the poor and women.”