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BRIEF April 13, 2020

Office of the Chief Economist, Africa Region (AFRCE)


The COVID-19 pandemic is having severe public health, economic and social impacts around the world, and Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called this public health emergency a “looming disaster” for the African continent. The Africa CDC has been at the forefront of limiting the health impact of the pandemic, coordinating efforts of member states, sourcing medical equipment globally and locally for countries on the continent, and providing guidelines on how countries can implement social distancing measures among other efforts. Delivering this mandate within the varying contexts of African countries is not without its challenges. Host Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist for the Africa Region at the World Bank, invites Dr. Nkengasong to tell us about the measures they are taking to fight the pandemic under these circumstances.

The Office of the Chief Economist in the Africa Region (AFRCE) generates timely and relevant knowledge on policy and institutional reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa. It produces research articles and reports on the most pressing development issues facing the continent, and fosters a community of economists interested in Sub-Saharan Africa, within the World Bank and on the continent.



Africa's Pulse


The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on human life and brought major disruption to economic activity across the world. Despite a late arrival, the COVID-19 virus has spread rapidly across Sub-Saharan Africa in recent weeks. Eeconomic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1 percent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years. The coronavirus is hitting the region’s three largest economies —Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola— in a context of persistently weak growth and investment. In particular, countries that depend on oil and mining exports would be hit the hardest. The negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis on household welfare would be equally dramatic. African policymakers need to develop a two-pronged strategy of “saving lives and protecting livelihoods.” This strategy includes (short-term) relief measures and (medium-term) recovery measures aimed at strengthening health systems, providing income support to workers and liquidity support to viable businesses. However, financing of these policies will be challenging amid deteriorating fiscal positions and heightened public debt vulnerabilities. Therefore, African countries will require financial assistance from their development partners -including COVID-19 related multilateral assistance and a debt service stand still with official bilateral creditors.



JULY 2019

The overall CPIA score for IDA countries in Sub-Saharan Africa was 3.1 in 2018, the same as 2017, reflecting the slow progress in improving the quality of policy and institutional frameworks in the region.


Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa


This report looks beyond the traditional entry points of macroeconomic stability and growth to ask what more can be done to speed up poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa and where policy makers should focus their attention. This policy agenda requires growth where the poor work and live, and as such, this report centers on what it will take to increase the productivity and earnings of poor and vulnerable people and the financing necessary to make this happen.


The Future of Work in Africa

Harnessing the Potential of Digital Technologies for All

The report examines how the adoption of digital technologies may change the nature of work in sub-Saharan Africa. It concludes that African countries can turn the promise of digital into reality by enabling entrepreneurship, enhancing the productivity of the informal sector, and extending social protection coverage. Policy makers and private sector partners need to make bold choices and investments today that will allow the next generation of African workers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to thrive.


Profiting from Parity

Unlocking the Potential of Women's Business in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world, with approximately 42 percent of the non-agricultural labor force classified as self-employed or employers. Yet most entrepreneurs are unable to grow their businesses beyond small-scale subsistence operations, impeding their contribution to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. This is particularly so for women.


The Skills Balancing Act in Sub-Saharan Africa

Countries face hard choices to strike the right balance between investing in skills that meet the needs of today's highly informal and agrarian economies and investing in the skills needed to foster economic transformation; and between investing in the skills for the current generation and in those for upcoming ones. This report presents rigorous evidence on interventions that work to improve learning, and Sub-Saharan Africa is often at the frontier of these innovations.


Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL)

The Gender Innovation Lab identifies scalable solutions for women’s economic empowerment in Africa through impact evaluations that generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in earnings, productivity, assets, and agency.

Think Africa Partnership (TAP)

The Think Africa Partnership bridges the gap between evidence and policy in order to support economic transformation and growth across Africa. TAP brings together an exceptional network of African young professionals, scholars and universities, domestic and regional 'knowledge to policy' think tanks, and a network of over 30 Chief Economic Advisors to Heads of State throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

The Chief Economists of Government Network

This initiative convenes and supports a peer network of chief economic advisors to presidents and prime ministers. It aims to strengthen knowledge-based policymaking in African countries to promote economic growth and transformation.

AERC/World Bank Visiting Scholars Program

The World Bank/African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Visiting Scholars Program offers four-month research placements for AERC scholars to join the World Bank and its partners to work on African economic policy issues.