Weak Recovery in Nigeria, Others Affecting Prospects in Sub-Sahara Africa, Says W’Bank

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By James Emejo in Abuja 

The World Bank has attributed the slow growth recorded in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 to persistent uncertainty in the global economy and the slow pace of domestic reforms.

Specifically, it pointed out that 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,” the bank noted.

It stated this in the 20th edition of Africa’s Pulse, the Bretton Woods institution’s bi-annual economic update for the region, which was launched Wednesday.

The bank further noted that initiatives to empower poor people, girls and women are essential to progress.

The report noted that the overall growth in the region is projected to rise to 2.6 per cent in 2019 from 2.5 per cent in 2018, which is 0.2 percentage points lower than the April forecast.

This edition of Africa’s Pulse includes special sections on accelerating poverty reduction and promoting women’s empowerment.

The World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Mr. Hafez Ghanem, said: “Empowering women will help boost growth. African policy makers face an important choice: business as usual or deliberate steps towards a more inclusive economy. After several years of slower-than-expected growth, closing the opportunity gap for women by removing barriers to their economic participation is the best way forward.”

The bank stated that global uncertainty is taking a toll on growth well beyond Africa, adding that real GDP growth is also expected to slow significantly in other emerging and developing regions.

It noted that 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.

According to the report, “Excluding Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, 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 Chief Economist for Africa, Albert Zeufack, said: “Africa’s economies are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world, and this is reflected in the subdued growth rates across the region. At the same time, evidence clearly links poor governance to poor growth performance, so efficient and transparent institutions should be on the priority list for African policy makers and citizens.”

The report stated that four in 10 Africans, or over 416 million people, lived below $1.90 per day in 2015, adding that 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.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world that can boast that women are more likely to be entrepreneurs than men, and African women contribute to a large share of agricultural labour across the continent.

“This success is stifled by large and persistent earning gaps between men and women. Women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa produce 33 per cent less per hectare of land than men do, and female entrepreneurs or business owners earn 34 per cent less profits than male business owners,” it added.