Sierra Leone © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Although Africa has made progress over the course of the past 10 years—in terms of both economic growth and poverty reduction—the region now faces significant challenges mainly because of the global decline in commodity prices and region-specific risks. Growth in Africa slowed to 3.0 percent in 2015, down from 4.5 percent in 2014 and the slowest pace since 2009, and it is projected to drop further, to 2.5 percent in 2016. Per capita income growth was even more modest, weighed down by population growth.

There is variation across countries, particularly between resource-rich and non–resource rich countries, but overall, the region’s economic growth trend remains below pre–financial crisis levels. Slower growth deepens the challenge of reducing poverty. Despite progress, the share of the population living on $1.90 a day or less remains very high, estimated at 42.7 percent in 2012.

World Bank assistance

The Bank approved $9.3 billion for the region for 109 projects this fiscal year, including $669 million in IBRD loans and $8.7 billion in IDA commitments, of which $200 million was from the IDA Scale-up Facility. Key focus areas included raising agricultural productivity, increasing access to affordable and reliable energy, building resilience to climate change, strengthening fragile and conflict-afflicted areas, and promoting good quality education.

The Bank also made important contributions to knowledge this fiscal year. According to Poverty in a Rising Africa, the incidence of poverty in the region may be lower than current estimates indicate. Because of population growth, however, the number of Africans living in extreme poverty is at least 50 million higher today than it was in 1990.

Boosting agricultural productivity

Agriculture accounts for 65 percent of employment in Africa. At a time when some countries are facing challenges from the decline in commodity prices, developing this sector can help to diversify economies. To improve the lives of 2 million of the estimated 50 million pastoralists in the region, the $248 million Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project aims specifically to improve access to essential productive assets, services, and markets in six countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal—and to improve the local response to pastoral crises and emergencies. Most of the beneficiaries of the six-year project will be women and youth.

Increasing affordable and reliable energy

Africa continues to lag behind other regions in access to electricity—an irony given the continent’s huge potential for renewable energy, including hydropower, solar, and geothermal. Increasing access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy is a primary objective of the Bank’s work in Africa. This fiscal year the Bank provided $700 million for the Sankofa Gas Project in Ghana, which will develop offshore natural gas resources located 60 kilometers from the western shore. Gas from the project will fuel up to 1,000 megawatts of domestic power generation, about 40 percent of Ghana’s currently installed generation capacity. The project will leverage $7.9 billion in private sector investments, yielding huge potential fiscal returns and benefits to Ghana.

Adapting to climate change and building climate resilience

Climate change, especially changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, is projected to hit Africa’s poorest people particularly hard. Investing in adaptation techniques and disaster risk management therefore remains a top priority for the Bank. The Africa Climate Business Plan, presented at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) climate change talks in Paris, December 2015, laid out a work program to help countries both mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. In April 2016, the World Bank, in collaboration with partners, agreed to establish the West Africa coastal observatory to enhance the knowledge base on coastal erosion, flooding, and other climate change hazards that West Africa’s coastal and island nations face. The observatory will build national and regional capacity and support countries’ efforts to strengthen the resilience of their coastal areas to climate change.

Supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries

This fiscal year IDA approved turnaround resources for Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar. These funds help fragile and conflict-affected states to address the roots of fragility and support their transition to functioning states. In Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar, they will support key government reform initiatives, including the strengthening of a transparent and accountable public financial management system.

Regional initiatives by the World Bank and the United Nations in the Great Lakes, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa are supporting cross-border efforts to address the underlying causes of fragility. The Bank is addressing the pressing issue of displacement in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa with two operations to help countries manage ongoing crises through support for forcibly displaced people and their host communities.

Fostering the development of human capital

Every year for the next decade, 11 million African youth will enter the job market. They must be equipped with the right skills and training in order to succeed. To help bridge the gap between what African students are learning and the skills employers seek, the Bank has launched initiatives to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education across the region. A $140 million Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence project is funding 24 competitively selected centers in institutions of higher education in Eastern and Southern Africa. It will strengthen their capacity and focus on producing excellent training, applied research, and knowledge transfer in priority sectors such as agriculture, health, education, and applied statistics.

Further Information: World Bank's Africa Region homepage »  

Increasing agricultural productivity in West Africa

In 2008, the World Bank piloted the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) in Ghana, Mali, and Senegal. The results were impressive: Beneficiaries’ incomes rose 34 percent, yields rose 30 percent, calorie intake increased, and the length of hunger periods declined. The pilot’s success led to the program’s rollout in 10 more countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

The expanded program has raised incomes and improved food security for 7 million direct beneficiaries (42 percent of them women) and some 50 million indirect beneficiaries. It has provided smallholders working on almost 4 million hectares of land with 160 new crop varieties, food-processing tools, and other agricultural technologies. WAAPP is also building a future of agricultural innovation. It is supporting the establishment of nine research centers of specialization, which coordinate research and implementation across the region. WAAPP has also financed masters and doctoral degree training for more than 1,000 young scientists and involved universities in developing agricultural technologies.

The success of the program led the Bank to expand it in Senegal this year. Additional funding of $20 million will support government efforts to strengthen the production of certified seeds and the marketing system for groundnuts, and help to diversify activities in the groundnut basin.


Regional Commitments and Disbursements for Fiscal 2014-16

  Commitments (millions) Disbursements (millions)
  Fiscal 2014 Fiscal 2015 Fiscal 2016 Fiscal 2014 Fiscal 2015 Fiscal 2016
IBRD $ 420 $ 1,209 $ 669 $ 335
$ 816 $ 874
IDA $ 10,193 $ 10,360 $ 8,677 $ 6,604 $ 6,595 $ 6,813
Note: Portfolio of projects under implementation as of June 30, 2016: $56.1 billion.



Indicator 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total population (millions) 898 923 948 974 1,001
Population growth (annual %) 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.7 2.7
GNI per capita (Atlas method, current US$) 1,402 1,617 1,691 1,727 1,627
GDP per capita growth (annual %) 1.5 0.9 1.9 1.8 0.2
Population living below $1.90 a day (millions) 394 389 - - -
Life expectancy at birth, females (years) 58 59 59 60 -
Life expectancy at birth, males (years) 56 56 57 57 -
Youth literacy rate, females (% ages 15-24) 66 66 66 66 -
Youth literacy rate, males (% ages 15-24) 76 76 76 76 -
Carbon dioxide emissions (megatons) 753 - - - -
Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
SDG 1.1 Extreme poverty (% population below $1.90 a day, 2011 PPP) 44.4 42.7 - - -
SDG 2.2 Prevalence of stunting, height for age (% children under 5) - - - 36 -
SDG 3.1 Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate, per 100,000 live births) 601 587 573 560 547
SDG 3.2 Under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) 97 93 89 86 83
SDG 4.1 Primary completion rate (% relevant age group) 69 69 69 - -
SDG 5 Ratio of female to male labor force participation rate (modeled ILO estimates, %) 84 84 84 84 -
SDG 5.5 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (% total) 20 21 22 22 24
SDG 6.1 Access to safe drinking water (% population with access) 64 65 66 67 68
SDG 6.2 Access to basic sanitation facilities (% population with access) 28 29 29 29 30
SDG 7.1 Access to electricity (% population) - 35 - - -
SDG 7.2 Renewable energy consumption (% total final energy consumption) 71 70 - - -
SDG 17.8 Individuals using the Internet (% population) 12 15 17 20 22

 ILO = International Labour Organization; PPP = purchasing power parity; - = not available. Visit for data updates.