By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI, Oct 6 (Reuters) – Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy is projected to grow 3.3% this year and 3.5% in 2022, buoyed by rising commodity prices, the lifting of some anti-coronavirus restrictions and a revival in world trade, according to a report by the World Bank on Wednesday.
Growth in the countries south of the Sahara is expected to rise to 3.8% in 2023.
Like everywhere else in the world, sub-Saharan Africa imposed movement restrictions in the first quarter of last year to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to curb trade and other key economic activities such as tourism and transportation.
According to the World Bank report, growth could be higher, at 5.1% in 2022 and 5.4% a year later, depending on how quickly COVID-19 vaccinations were introduced, while a slower vaccination rate would reduce growth projections.
“Slower vaccine delivery and coverage would hinder relaxation of the COVID-19 disruption to economic activity and forecast growth to slow to 2.4% in 2023,” the Bank for Africa’s Pulse report said.
The latest Africa’s Pulse report, released in April, had forecast growth of 2.3% to 3.4% for this year, after an estimated 2.0% decline in 2020.
While many developed countries have gradually reopened thanks to vaccination campaigns, the pace of vaccination in Africa has remained slow. There is concern that persistent threats from variants of the coronavirus like Delta could keep African nations trapped in cycles of on-off lockdowns.
As of Wednesday, Africa had registered 8.45 million COVID-19 infections and 212,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
According to WHO Africa, by the end of September half of the 52 African countries that had received COVID-19 vaccines had fully vaccinated only 2% or less of their population.
The World Bank said the economies of Angola, Nigeria and South Africa are expected to emerge from recession this year.
Oil-producing Angola grew 0.4% in 2021 after five straight years of recession, the report said.
Nigeria was expected to grow 2.4%, driven by services, while South Africa – the most industrialized economy in Africa – is expected to grow 4.6% due to better performance in services, industry and agriculture.
The bank said the non-resource-rich countries will also see strong rebound, with the Ivory Coast economy expected to grow 6.2% and Kenya‘s 5.0% this year.
Sub-Saharan Africa was said to have seen government debt spike during the pandemic, with the region’s average general government gross debt projected to be 71% of GDP in 2021, a 30 percentage point increase since 2013.
“Increased funding on commercial terms, partly reflecting the recent surge in Eurobond issuance, has increased the risk of interest rate, exchange rate and rollover risks for sub-Saharan Africa,” the World Bank said.
The bank said other challenges to the region’s economic outlook are rising inflation and climate change. Although sub-Saharan Africa is the smallest contributor to global CO2 emissions, it has been hardest hit by climate change. (Reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by Elias Biryabarema and Mark Heinrich)