IMF sees Africa lagging in rebound from pandemic blow

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The International Monetary Fund last week Thursday forecast that Africa’s economic rebound from pandemic-induced shrinkage would be weaker than in the rest of the world in 2021 and 2022.

Low rates of vaccination against COVID-19 across the continent top the list of reasons for the slower recovery, the Washington-based institution said in a biannual report on the region.

Growth for sub-Saharan Africa should reach 3.7 percent in 2021 and 3.8 percent in 2022, “a welcome but relatively modest recovery,” the IMF said in its forecasts.

Those figures would nevertheless be “the slowest in the world given that the developed economies will grow by more than five percent and the emerging or developing countries by more than six percent,” it added.

With just 2.5 percent of people vaccinated against COVID-19, “lockdowns have been the sole option for containing the virus,” said IMF Africa chief Abebe Aemro Selassie.

Even though 12 billion doses of vaccine are to be produced in 2021, it will likely take more than a year for a significant number of Africans to be vaccinated, the Fund added.

Although Africa has been the region of the world least affected by the pandemic, it has also experienced several successive waves of the coronavirus, and “there is little reason to believe that there won’t be repeated waves going forward”, Selassie said.

He blamed “stockpiling by advanced economies, export restrictions by major vaccine manufacturing countries, and demands for booster shots in advanced economies” for shortages in Africa that could continue for the foreseeable future.

Selassie added that “international cooperation on vaccination is critical to address the threat of repeated waves.

“This would help prevent the divergent recovery paths of sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world from hardening and becoming permanent fault lines, which would jeopardise decades of hard-won social and economic progress.”

In South Africa, growth should reach five percent this year, better than expected, but return to a more modest level (+ 2.2 percent) next year for want of structural reforms, according to the IMF.

The Nigerian economy is expected to grow by 2.6 percent thanks to high oil prices, even if production will remain below pre-COVID levels. The IMF predicts 2.7 percent growth in Africa’s most populous country in 2022.

In Angola, another economy that relies heavily on oil, the IMF forecasts a 0.7 percent GDP contraction in 2021, before growth of 2.7 percent in 2022, ending six consecutive years of recession.

In tourism-dependent countries such as Cape Verde, Mauritius, The Gambia or the Seychelles, growth has returned to pre-COVID levels but the losses sustained in 2020 will be difficult to erase.

Meanwhile the most fragile economies include Sahel nations facing jihadist insurgency or political tensions, like Chad and Guinea.

The security situation there could “shake the expected rebound in consumption and investor confidence,” the IMF warned.


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