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Overview

  • Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 1 billion people, half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050, is a diverse continent offering human and natural resources that have the potential to yield inclusive growth and wipe out poverty in the region, enabling Africans across the continent to live healthier and more prosperous lives. With the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market, the continent is creating an entirely new development path, harnessing the potential of its resources and people.

    The region is composed of low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries, 18 of which are fragile or conflict-affected. Africa also has 13 small states, characterized by a small population, limited human capital, and a confined land area.

    As Sub-Saharan African countries have managed to keep the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) under control with relatively low number of cases, the pandemic continues to take a toll on African lives and economies, economic activity is projected to decline by 3.3% in 2020, confirming the region’s first recession in 25 years. The substantial downturn in economic activity will cost the region at least $115 billion in output losses this year, in part caused by lower domestic consumption and investment brought on by containment measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This situation could also push up to 40 million people into extreme poverty, erasing at least five years of progress in fighting poverty. Similarly, COVID-19 could set back progress in building human capital, as school closures will affect nearly 253 million students, potentially causing losses in learning.

    Eastern and Southern African countries were hit hardest by the economic impacts of COVID partly because of the stronger output contractions in South Africa and Angola. Disruptions in the tourism industry and lockdowns will cause substantial slowdowns in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the island nations. In West and Central Africa, the decline in growth is projected to be driven mainly by oil exporters. Activity among non-resource-intensive countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal, will slow but not contract, helped by relatively more robust growth in the agriculture sector. Fragile countries in the region are expected to experience a strong decline in growth as COVID-19 exacerbates the drivers of fragility.

    The region will rebound in 2021, however growth will vary across countries. While South Africa is expected to experience a weak recovery, overall growth in Eastern and Southern Africa region is expected to average 2.7%. While Nigeria’s economic recovery will be weak, the Western and Central Africa region is expected to experience an average growth of 1.4%. Many countries have seized the opportunity within the crisis to move faster on necessary reforms and investments that will be crucial for long-term development. However, concerns of a second wave are fueling further uncertainty.

    In such context, the road to recovery will be long and arduous and will require policies and investments that focus on connecting people to job opportunities, which can help end extreme poverty, particularly post-COVID-19. In a time of lockdowns and social distancing, investing in the digital economy and infrastructure will also be crucial to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and foster a sustained recovery. Adoption of digital technologies by governments, households and firms in Sub-Saharan Africa still lag behind that of other regions in the world in Sub-Saharan Africa. Government interventions to reduce the cost of devices and services, avoid disconnections for lack of payment, and increase bandwidth will therefore be key. 

    Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020

  • As part of the global response, the World Bank Group will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect poor and vulnerable people, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes up to $50 billion for African countries of which nearly $12 billion have made available since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, to help countries respond to the crisis through a combination of new operations in health, social protection, economic stimulus and other sectors, as well as redeployment of existing resources. The World Bank’s response is focused around four main areas, simultaneously: 

    • Saving lives: The World Bank has taken fast action to help African countries strengthen their pandemic response and health care systems. As of October 15, the first set of emergency health projects in 34 African countries, amounting to a total of $757 million.
    • Protecting poor people: To protect poor and vulnerable citizens and respond to the impact on their livelihoods, the Bank is helping African countries to scale up and adapt social safety net programs and ensure food security.
    • Protecting and creating jobs: The World Bank supports public works and urban programs that are being launched or scaled up to facilitate job creation in low income communities project and to help increase access to livelihood support for extremely poor and vulnerable people like women and the youth. Meanwhile, World Bank Group’s private sector arm – the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – is working to help the private sector navigate the pandemic and recover from the economic and financial impact of the crisis.
    • Building back better: While addressing the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on recovery remains central to the Bank’s response and support to countries. More than 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have requested development policy operations or budget support from the Bank to assist them to manage the fiscal impacts of the pandemic. These operations are focusing on supporting governments to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time promoting reforms that will create the conditions for economic recovery. As of October 15, the World Bank has approved 20 Development Policy Operations in Sub-Saharan Africa for more than $2.7 billion provided by the International Development Association (IDA).

    Beyond, the COVID-19 response, The World Bank Group strategy for Africa also prioritizes investments in human capital and digital economy. It supports initiatives in favor of climate change adaptation and mitigation and deploys an approach to address the drivers of Fragility, Conflict and Violence. Finally, the World Bank is scaling up its work on regional integration, taking a holistic view of the continent to improve connectivity, leverage economies of scale, and advance collective action to address shared challenges.

    Research and analysis: Knowledge is essential for governments to make better policies and institutions to make aid more effective. Our most recent regional studies can be found here, and analytical work by country is published on each country’s website. This paired with strong analytical work by sector can help promote substantive discussions and drive evidence-based policy making around key development issues.

    Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020

  • As of September 2020, the World Bank approved $5.3 billion in lending to the Africa region for 40 operations in fiscal year 2021, in International Development Association commitments. The Bank has an active portfolio in Africa of 719 projects totaling $93 billion for all product lines. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than $12 billion has been dedicated to COVID-19 emergency operations in health, social protection and economic stimulus. More operations are under preparation totaling $50 billion.

    Key focus areas of long-term engagement include boosting human capital and empowering women, accelerating Africa’s digital economy, promoting regional integration particularly in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions, increasing access to affordable renewable energy, building resilience to climate change, and mobilizing all sources of finance for development.

    A few highlights of our development results include:

    Stepping up to support regional integration in Africa

    The current Regional Integration portfolio amounts to more than $14.1 billion, with more than 80 projects in implementation.

    Swift detection, early testing and rapid response require cross-border collaboration and strong solidarity among neighboring countries and with the international community to combat the spread of infectious diseases. In the aftermath of the West Africa Ebola crisis, the World Bank leveraged more than $600 million to launch the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) Project to strengthen health systems and support effective disease surveillance 16 West and Central African countries. The Bank has also provided $250 million to help Ethiopia, Zambia and the African Union implement the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project, which aims to counter the spread of infectious diseases and address regional and continental public health issues. Both projects have mobilized resources to help countries procure laboratory equipment and increase their capacities to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Fostering women’s and youth’s economic empowerment

    The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project (SWEDD) works across the Sahel to improve the availability and affordability of reproductive health services, strengthen specialized training centers for rural-based midwives, improve nursing services, and pilot and share knowledge on adolescent girls’ initiatives. SWEDD will soon include nine countries with $675 million in Bank funding.

    Investing in the early years to build resilient human capital

    Of the 250 million children under the age of five in Africa, one-third are stunted and less than one-quarter are enrolled in preschool. Investments in childhood development are crucial to unlocking a country’s human capital and driving economic growth and social development because they provide children with advantages that can last for generations.

    The World Bank's Africa envisions a region in which all children arrive at school well-nourished and ready to learn, acquire real learning in the classroom, and enter the job market as healthy, skilled, and productive adults. Thus, the current portfolio includes $22 billion in investments across 162 projects on human development, and nearly $14 billion in new investments are in the pipeline for 100 human development projects.

    In Niger, for example, the World Bank supports 100-day Rapid Results Initiatives (RRI) that are bringing health personnel and community members together—sometimes for the first time—to develop and test ways to improve health care effectiveness. The project is working to reach 15 million people (60% women) and contributes to reducing maternal and infant mortality and increasing family planning to benefit child development, women’s empowerment, and poverty reduction. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Bank supports the introduction of free primary education, which has allowed an additional 2.5 million children to go to school and could lift 23 million Congolese out of poverty by 2050.

    Adapting to climate change and building climate resilience

    Since its launch in 2015, the Africa Climate Business Plan has delivered significant results in  agriculture, integrated watershed management, ocean economies, climate resilience in coastal zones, and renewable energy. In Zambia, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, ACBP support has led to the development of dedicated Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plans, which contribute to efforts to increase food security for the rural poor through crop diversification, solar-powered irrigation, boreholes, rehabilitated canals and mainstreaming climate knowledge via national development plans.

    The Next Generation ACBP sets out a blueprint to help Sub-Saharan African economies achieve low carbon and climate-resilient outcomes. As the largest financier of climate action in Africa, the World Bank will use this new Climate Plan to build on a strong track record under the original plan in which the Bank supported 346 projects with more than $33 billion over the past six years.

    In East Africa, the World Bank is helping affected communities and households cope with the worst locust plague in decades. In the Sahel, the Bank is supporting more than a million pastoralists to adapt to the impact of climate change and to secure their livelihood.

    Accelerating the high-tech and digital economy

    The World Bank is supporting Africa’s vision to achieve universal and affordable access to information and communications technology  for every African individual, business, and government by 2030, with an interim goal to double broadband connectivity in each country by 2021.

    In Malawi, the Digital Foundations Project complements government efforts on digital transformation by supporting improvements to the legal/regulatory framework and building institutional and human capacity; promoting affordable, high quality internet access for all; and building the government’s ability to deliver services to citizens and conduct business digitally.

    Across the continent, the Bank has led Digital Economy Country Diagnostics (DE4A) in over 20 countries (completed and FY20 in progress) to assess the current state of the digital economy, with 15 more countries requesting diagnostics in FY20. The Bank has 15 active and 29 pipeline investment operations in Africa that contribute to the operationalization of the DE4A initiative that include a broadband infrastructure component totaling over $5.5 billion investment.

    Harnessing technological developments to improve access to clean and reliable energy

    At only 37%, energy access in Africa trails other regions, placing an unsustainable drag on growth. The Bank is supporting operations in Africa to increase access through grid extension and expansion of transmission networks, innovative off-grid electrification solutions, expansions of renewable generation capacity, development of regional power pools, and improvement of service efficiency.

    Across Africa, many World Bank-financed projects, such as the Azito Power Project in Cote d’Ivoire are crowding in private capital and reducing public debt as well as lowering the overall costs of service for electricity. In addition, the Bank is supporting the development and adoption of new technologies such as solar storage solutions, smart meters, mobile utility payments, satellite mapping and imaging, high-voltage DC transmission, and solar home systems and mini-grids. A solar energy project in Burundi will almost double the rate of electricity access in the country by expanding access to rural families, local enterprises, schools and health centers in some of the poorest areas of the country.

    Supporting inclusive governance and transforming economies

    Enabling efficient and inclusive delivery of services, such as judicial courts, waste management, and safety nets, and building institutions and systems that are resilient to economic, social, and environmental pressures are the foundations of the Bank’s work on governance and inclusion in Africa. By creating sound conditions for investment and establishing continuity of state services, business can thrive and citizens can access needed services, achieving greater stability. Technology has also affected how governments operate and interact with citizens, increasing transparency and more efficient service delivery. The region continues to work to connect every African individual, business, and government by 2030.

    In March 2020, Somalia began receiving debt relief under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which will help Somalia reduce its debt from $5.2 billion at the end of 2018 to $557 million once it reaches the HIPC Completion Point in about three years’ time. The Bank played a strong role in helping Somalia achieve this milestone, including $140 million in Pre-Arrears Clearance Grants in FY19 and $375 million in development policy financing to strengthen state capacity, financial management and transparency and promote inclusive private sector-led growth.

    Since March, the Bank has provided nearly $400 million in financing to help tackle the urgent crises facing Somalia while planning for long-term reforms and development goals.

    Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020

  • The World Bank Group leverages partnerships, knowledge, and financing instruments to further its twin goals of ending poverty and promoting shared prosperity.

    Deepened and accelerated support for African development requires working in partnership with a broad range of actors, aligning objectives and exploiting synergies and comparative advantages.

    The World Bank Group is a founding member of the Sahel Alliance, along with France, Germany, the European Union (EU), African Development Bank (AFDB), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The alliance aims to strengthen the peace-security-development nexus in G5-Sahel countries by expanding access to services and economic opportunities.

    The WBG, along with the EU and AFDB, is assisting Horn of Africa countries to develop a regional strategy focused on deepening collaboration on infrastructure, trade and economic integration, and resilience and human capital.

    The World Bank also supports countries to address forced displacement and refugees. Collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the EU, and the African Union Commission (AUC) underpins World Bank programs implementing a development approach to forced displacement the Great Lakes, Horn of Africa, Sahel, and Lake Chad countries.  The World Bank is working with the AUC and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to facilitate implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

    We are stepping up support for digital transformation in Africa in collaboration with the AUC, AFDB, UNECA, China, the French Development Agency (AFD), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA), EU, European Investment Bank (EIB), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Telecommunications Union, and Smart Africa.  Improved access to sustainable energy, including in rural areas, is a key aim of partnership with AFD, Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), Arab Coordination Group, JICA, AfDB, EIB, and the China National Energy Administration Energy.

    The Africa Region also leverages the combined strength of the entire World Bank Group by working closely with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in energy, agribusiness, water, transport and other priority areas.

    Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020

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In Depth

Strong Policies Can Support Economic Recovery

The latest economic analysis for the region predicts predicts economic activity will decline by 3.3 percent in 2020, confirming the region’s first recession in 25 years.

CPIA Africa

Africa’s poorest countries saw little to no progress on average in improving the quality of their policy and institutional frameworks in 2018.

IDA in Africa

With IDA’s help, hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty—through the creation of jobs, access to clean water, schools, roads, nutrition, electricity, and more.

Africa’s Human Capital Plan

Read the World Bank’s plan to support African countries to strengthen the quantity, efficiency and impact of investments in people.

Additional Resources

Regional Contacts

WASHINGTON
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
USA
(202) 473-1000
africateam@worldbank.org
AFRICA COUNTRY OFFICES
For more information about the World Bank's work in Africa, please contact us.
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