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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

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

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.

21 March 2022
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Region to lag behind as debt risks mount

Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic recovery from the pandemic is likely to remain one of the weakest of any region over 2022-23 and our GDP growth forecasts are generally below the consensus. The latest virus waves already seem to be ebbing, but low vaccination rates will keep much of the region vulnerable to possible future outbreaks. In the meantime, lower commodity prices and fiscal austerity will hold back growth. Despite tight fiscal policy, public debt risks will continue to mount in much of the region.

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.

‘BIG’ push in SA, FX distortions in Nigeria, tourism woes

Momentum behind proposals for a basic income grant (BIG) in South Africa appear to be building, suggesting that the authorities are leaning towards providing more fiscal support. Elsewhere, Nigeria’s unorthodox foreign exchange policy seems to be disrupting activity but the chances of policymakers reversing course are very low. Finally, a recent virus wave in the highly-vaccinated island nation of Mauritius has dampened its recovery prospects, but other tourism-dependent economies in Africa will probably fare even worse.

Pandemic not in the rear-view mirror for some time

The economic damage from the latest COVID-19 waves across Sub-Saharan Africa appears to be smaller compared to previous waves, but low vaccination rates mean that officials will have to keep containment measures in place for longer than elsewhere. This will hold back recoveries and prevent international travellers from returning quickly – a particular problem or countries like Kenya and Namibia.

Lagging behind

Vaccination campaigns across Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to struggle, leaving the region vulnerable to renewed virus outbreaks. This, combined with tight fiscal policy, a slow return of tourists and falls in commodity prices means that economic recoveries will lag behind those in other parts of the world. GDP across most of the region is likely to stay well below its pre-crisis path over 2021-23.

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