Optimism for stronger African recovery

Published: October 5, 2009

The strength of recovery in sub-Saharan Africa is uncertain, but should be easier than those following previous global crises, says Antoinette Sayeh, director of the Africa department at the World Bank.

Speaking at the IMF / World Bank meetings held in Istanbul, Sayeh pointed out that there remain "very large uncertainties" for the region – upswings across Africa have generally been "very slow and weak, with growth lagging substantially behind the rest of the world", she added.

"Within the region, we have very few high frequency indicators to really monitor the evolution of the crisis in real time," she said. "We don’t have the types of data available to more advanced economies, but we certainly are monitoring the data that we do have and the uncertainties around macroeconomic developments can’t be stressed enough."

In the past, she said, governments had an "extreme reaction" to global crises, "slashing government spending or simply just accumulating arrears and not paying their bills". Nonetheless, Sayeh expects that global integration will mean that “it will be different this time", with better government policies in place.

"The generally prudent macroeconomic policies in place before the crisis, supported in many countries by debt relief, have provided fiscal room for governments to sustain spending plans despite the lower revenues, and absorbing some of the global shocks to demand as a consequence," she said.
By late 2007, output in the region had been growing at almost 6.5% for six years, its best performance in some 30 years. But the food and fuel crisis of 2008 and the impact of the global financial downturn mean that GDP is now estimated to be growing at only 1%. The World Bank forecasts growth of 4% for the region in 2010, with a return to up to 6% during 2011 and the following years.