World Bank says 4.8% growth for sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, cuts earlier forecast

The World Bank has cut its growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier in the year it forecast 5.2% growth overall for SSA economies in 2012, but yesterday (4 Oct) it cut this to 4.8%. World Bank said in its bi-annual Africa’s Pulse report that Africa is still vulnerable to a fragile global economy and a slowdown in China, although high commodity prices and an increase in exports from countries that have made mineral discoveries are likely to underpin growth for the rest of 2012.

Africa achieved 4.9% growth in 2011. According to the study, excluding South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, growth is likely to hit 6% in 2012. Strong performers are expected to include countries such as Mozambique, home to some of the world’s biggest untapped natural gas reserves, and Sierra Leone which has started exporting iron ore, according to a story on Reuters. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is projected to rise to $48.7 billion by 2014 from $31bn in 2012, as investor interest in Africa soars. African exports rebounded in the first quarter of 2012, growing at an annual pace of 32%, up from the -11% pace recorded in the last quarter of 2011.

World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said in a press release: “A third of African countries will grow at or above 6%, with some of the fastest growing ones buoyed by new mineral exports and by factors such as the return to peace in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as strong growth in countries such as Ethiopia. An important indicator of how Africa is on the move is that investor interest in the region remains strong.. despite difficult global conditions.”

Most of SSA “middle income” by 2025
The majority of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries could also achieve middle-income status by 2025 though their dependency on natural resources is likely to continue in the medium term, it added. Shantayanan Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief Africa economist, said that this highlights the need for governments to spend their resource wealth wisely and focus on public investment: “Resource-rich African countries have to make the conscious choice to invest in better health, education and jobs, and less poverty for their people because it will not happen automatically when countries strike it rich,” he said.

Diop said there was an opportunity for “strengthening economic transparency and financial controls around the new discoveries, to leverage their full potential through development policies that increase economic growth, create jobs, reduce poverty, and improve health and education especially for young people and future generations, while balancing the immediate needs.”

The World Bank said that after 10 years of economic advancement, 22 of Africa’s 48 countries have officially achieved middle-income status and another 10 could reach middle-income status by 2025 if current growth trends continue. It warned that recent soaring prices for wheat and corn were a concern, after the worst U.S. drought in 50 years. Africa’s Sahel region is already suffering from higher food prices, high rates of malnutrition and recurring crisis and insecurity. Furthermore, swarms of desert locusts and the ongoing conflict in The Sahel also undermine the region’s food security, including Mali and Niger.

Development gains – poverty and child mortality down
Child mortality has also been declining. Between 2005 and 2008, for the first time the absolute number of people living on $1.25 a day fell, as poverty rates on the continent have been falling faster than one percentage point a year. With fast population growth Africa is urbanizing rapidly and 41% of Africans live in cities, with an additional 1% every 2 years. By 2033, Africa – like the rest of the world – will be a majority urban continent. The bank says this has deep implications for social and economic opportunities as urbanization and development go together and it claims that no country has ever reached high income with low urbanization.

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