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 »