Africa

Ghana

ANC leadership contest, Ghana’s debt, Ethiopia’s conflict

Leftist factions of South Africa’s ruling ANC already appear to be gearing up to take on President Cyril Ramaphosa in December’s leadership election and this is likely to push fiscal policy in a looser direction, worsening the country’s debt problems. Debt concerns are also building in Ghana and remain elevated in Ethiopia as well, even though there are signs that the internal conflict is abating.

14 January 2022

Emerging virus waves clouding recoveries beyond SA

Much attention has been devoted to the Omicron-fuelled fourth COVID-19 wave ripping through South Africa but cases have picked up elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa as well, with especially sharp rises in Nigeria and Namibia. There are early signs of virus waves taking hold in Kenya and Ghana too. But so far African policymakers are following their peers in South Africa with a “wait and see” approach before tightening economically-damaging restrictions on activity. Were healthcare systems to come under strain, governments’ hands may be forced and past form suggests that stringent containment measures pose the biggest risk to economic recoveries in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Meanwhile, tourism-dependent economies will probably suffer either way. Even if travel restrictions are rowed back, any green shoots in tourism sectors are likely to wither amid virus concerns. Note: Central Bank Drop-In – The Fed, ECB and BoE are just some of the key central bank decisions expected in this packed week of meetings. Neil Shearing and a special panel of our chief economists will sift through the outcomes on Thursday, 16th December at 11:00 ET/16:00 GMT and discuss the monetary policy outlook for 2022.

16 December 2021

Omicron shines spotlight on low vaccine coverage

The emergence of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 reinforces the need to boost vaccine coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa from current low levels. Most countries have administered at least one vaccine dose to less than 20% of their populations. The South African authorities’ initial response to the ‘Omicron threat’ was to urge the take-up of vaccines, rather than tightening containment measures. And so long as vaccine coverage is low, the risk of intermittent curbs on activity to relieve strains in health care sectors will linger with future virus waves and variants. Achieving such vaccine coverage will probably take some time even as Africa’s vaccine supplies – including from China and India – look set to increase over the coming quarters.

30 November 2021
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Where are frontier sovereign debt risks greatest?

The precipitous decline in Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves means the risk of a near-term sovereign debt default is increasing. Elsewhere, Tunisia also stands out on account of its public debt problems. Fiscal challenges look severe in Ghana, Oman and Bahrain, although crunch points are a few years away.

External strains abate, but pockets of risk remain

While external risks have subsided across much of Sub-Saharan Africa in recent quarters, pockets of vulnerability remain. External (and, as a result, debt) vulnerabilities look most acute in Ethiopia.

Hope on vaccines, but still a long way to go

COVID-19 vaccine coverage remains pitifully low across much of Sub-Saharan Africa, with less than 10% of populations having received at least a first dose in most countries. But there are signs that things may be slowly turning a corner. The rate of vaccination has picked up in recent weeks and there are growing hopes that this trend will continue as the supply of vaccines to the continent improves. That said, there is still a long way to go to reach the high vaccine coverage achieved in other parts of the world. What’s more, even as supply improves, other hurdles such as logistical challenges and vaccine hesitancy may still hinder progress. In the meantime, the region will remain vulnerable to fresh virus outbreaks and the threat of tighter restrictions will continue to cast a cloud over the economic outlook.

Headwinds beyond vaccine woes intensifying

Extremely low vaccine coverage continues to cast a dark cloud over recovery prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa and this will be compounded by deteriorations in the terms of trade and tighter fiscal policy. As a result, rebounds in most economies will lag behind other EMs. Sovereign debt risks look acute in Ethiopia and are growing in Ghana, while South Africa faces a slow-burning problem.

Ghana struggling with debt, oil price winners and losers

The sharp rise in Ghana’s sovereign dollar bond yields this month suggests that investors are coming around to our view about the country’s worrying debt trajectory. Meanwhile, the rebound in oil prices will, as usual, split Sub-Saharan African economies into winners and losers. But the region’s oil producers will probably not be able to reap the full benefits from higher prices.

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