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Debt problems building

Sub-Saharan Africa’s recovery is likely to remain slow going and our growth forecasts are generally below the consensus. While spillovers from the war in Ukraine will boost a handful of economies – notably Angola and Nigeria – in others, the fallout will cause economic pain. High inflation is likely to prompt monetary policymakers across the region to hike interest rates, although we think South Africa’s central bank will do so more gradually than most currently expect. Meanwhile, public debt problems will grow. Risks are highest in Ethiopia and Ghana, while South Africa faces a slow-burning problem. EM Drop-In (5th May, 10:00 EDT/15:00 BST): Join Shilan Shah for our latest monthly session on the big macro and markets stories in EMs. This month, Shilan and the team will be talking Russian gas, FX weakness and surging food prices. Register now

4 May 2022

Europe turns to Africa to replace Russian gas

European officials have increasingly looked to Africa to replace gas supplies from Russia. While the region’s gas producers – like Angola and Nigeria – will gain from the recent surge in global energy prices, it’s not clear that they will be able to raise overall production, at least in the near term. In a similar vein, gas production is not likely to come online (at least significantly) until later this decade in some other countries like Mozambique and Tanzania.

22 April 2022

War in Ukraine: a varied impact across Africa

Spillovers from the war in Ukraine will have a varied impact across Sub-Saharan Africa. Large oil producers such as Nigeria and Angola are benefitting from the surge in global oil prices but, for the rest of the region, it is worsening their terms of trade. That is a cause for concern for countries already running large current account deficits, such as Kenya, particularly given that external financing conditions have tightened at the same time. The Ghanaian cedi has been a notable casualty among African currencies, further fuelling concerns about its fragile public finances. Meanwhile, with higher commodity prices adding to inflation pressures and the Fed turning more hawkish, central banks may tighten monetary policy more quickly.

31 March 2022
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War in Ukraine exacerbates external pressures

Shifts in commodity prices in response to the war in Ukraine will provide a sizeable boost to current account positions in Angola and (to a lesser extent) Nigeria this year. Elsewhere, however, higher energy import bills will more than offset any increase in the value of metals or agricultural exports. Most African currencies have come under pressure in recent weeks which, combined with tighter external financing conditions, will further fuel sovereign debt fears. Commodities Drop-In (24 March, 11:00 EDT/15:00 GMT): Our Commodities team will be exploring how the war in Ukraine is shaking up commodity markets, from oil to wheat, while tackling some of the big market questions – not least whether we’re in for 1970s-style oil supply shocks. Register here.

Assessing public debt risks in Africa

In this Update, we roll out our sovereign debt heat map that provides a snapshot of debt risks across Sub-Saharan Africa. The pandemic has increased debt burdens across the continent and, with elections on the horizon in many places, governments are unlikely to push through the austerity needed to stabilise debt. While the rise in commodity prices caused by the war in Ukraine is a positive for some (e.g. Angola), tighter external financing conditions pose significant risks for others (e.g. Ghana). Long Run Outlook Drop-In (23 March, 11:00 EDT/15:00 GMT): What will be the lasting impacts of the war in Ukraine? What legacies will the pandemic leave? What does a future of higher inflation mean for economies and markets? Neil Shearing hosts this special discussion with senior economists about the long-term investing outlook on Wednesday. Register here.

Mixed market reaction in Africa to Russia-Ukraine war

Elevated commodity prices on the back of the Russia-Ukraine crisis will almost certainly add to inflationary pressures across Sub-Saharan Africa. High prices for energy, metals and agricultural products that African countries export seem to have shielded most currencies in the region from sinking amidst a deterioration in risk appetite. But there are some signs of stress. In particular, the Ghanaian cedi has weakened sharply and its sovereign dollar bond spreads have widened, further increasing its public debt vulnerability. EM Drop-In (Thur. 3 March, 15:00 GMT) We’re discussing the impact of Russia-Ukraine on emerging markets in a special 20-minute briefing this Thursday. Registration details.

Commodity prices to turn into headwind

Our downbeat view that most commodity prices will fall back by year-end is largely negative for economies across Sub-Saharan Africa, with Zambia and Angola likely to be hardest hit, although some net oil importers are likely to gain from softening oil prices.

What higher oil prices mean for EMs

If oil prices were to remain at their elevated levels, they could push current account and budget balances into surplus in many of the EM producers. It would also ease any concerns about dollar pegs in the Gulf, although we think the currencies of Angola and Nigeria will still need to weaken. For importers, it would add to growing external vulnerabilities in parts of Latin America and Emerging Europe.

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