The World Bank published its 2021 ‘Africa’s Pulse’ report on the state of the sub-Saharan African economy on 31 March. Once again, the countries that are least dependent on the export of raw materials should see a definite recovery, such as Côte d’Ivoire (+6.2%), Guinea (+6.6%) and Niger (+6.9%).
Countries that are highly dependent on oil, such as Angola, or that face persistent economic difficulties, such as South Africa, are not expected to recover as quickly.
According to ‘Pulse’, the first wave of Covid-19 didn’t greatly affect this region. However, despite government support programmes, growth in the region has collapsed for the first time in 25 years, falling by 2% in 2020.
Sub-Saharan Africa has fared better than Europe and Latin America because the virus has spread less quickly. This is due to the fact that agriculture has been buoyant and because world commodity prices have recovered more quickly than expected thanks to the resumption of Chinese purchases.
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However, Rwanda experienced its first recession in 10 years and South Africa plunged to -7%. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has calculated that from December 2019 to December 2020, tourism in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 78%, hurting the economies of Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Verde and Senegal.
The report says that the worst is over and expects a recovery. However, it believes that this will be very uneven across countries, as the arrival of Covid-19 variants has increased the number of infections in the region by 40%.
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Nevertheless, this second wave does not affect all countries, which explains why the forecasts give a range of growth for 2021 of +2.3% to +3.4%. Nigeria and Angola are likely to experience a sluggish recovery, while West Africa’s coastal countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Senegal and Togo will exceed 4%.
Dependence on speedy vaccination
For the others, “4% growth is achievable,” the report notes, “if countries implement a set of measures that support sustained investment as well as job creation and allow the exchange rate to reflect market forces and improve competitiveness.”
This will also depend on the debt burden relief, which is an issue that will be discussed during the week of 5 April at the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But the strength and spread of economic dynamism across sub-Saharan Africa will depend above all on the speed at which people are vaccinated, which will compensate for the fragile health systems and allow for a full recovery.
For now, rich countries are monopolising the life-saving doses that are trickling into Africa. As Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has lamented, 10 countries have reserved 70% of the world’s vaccines manufactured to date and they are not African countries.
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