Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

Overview

  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s opportunities are vast, and its challenges are persistent. Home to 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.

    Volatility in the global environment due to COVID-19 pandemic, which is taking a heavy toll on human life and placing excessive pressure on health systems, continues to negatively impact Sub-Saharan Africa. Economic and social impacts are immense, costing the region between $37 and $79 billion in estimated output losses in 2020, reducing agricultural productivity, weakening supply chains, increasing trade tensions, limiting job prospects, and exacerbating political and regulatory uncertainty. With such formidable challenges, economic growth is expected to contract from 2.4% in 2019 to between -2.1 and -5.1% in 2020, sparking the region’s first recession in 25 years.

    A collapse in economic activity that results from the COVID-19 containment measures and macroeconomic instability will increase poverty and endanger lives and livelihoods. Household welfare is expected to be equally dramatic with welfare losses in the optimistic scenario projected to reach 7% in 2020, compared to a non-pandemic scenario.

    Growth will weaken substantially in the two fastest growing areas—the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the East African Community—due to weak external demand, disruptions to supply chains and domestic production. The tourism sector is expected to contract sharply due to severe disruption to travel and tourism activities. Countries that rely on exporting extractives are also likely to be hardest-hit by COVID-19, with growth falling by up to seven percentage points in oil-exporting countries and by more than eight percentage points in metal exporters.

    The coronavirus is hitting the region’s three largest economies —Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola— in a context of persistently weak growth and investment. South Africa has the largest number of confirmed cases in the region, and strict measures to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus are weighing on the economy.

    Several long-standing challenges remain and are holding back progress. Around 640 million people currently live without electricity in Africa – 210 million of which are in fragile and conflict-affected countries.  Public debt levels and debt risk are rising, which might jeopardize debt sustainability in some countries; the availability of good jobs has not kept pace with the number of entrants in the labor force; fragility is costing the subcontinent a half of a percentage point of growth per year; and gender gaps persist and are keeping the continent from reaching its full growth and innovation potential. More than 416 million Africans still live in extreme poverty.

    Last Updated: Apr 23, 2020

  • The World Bank Group strategy for Africa builds on opportunities for growth and poverty reduction to support countries as they become more competitive globally, harness the power of digital technology, and improve the quality of life of their 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. The World Bank is responding to this diversity with a wide range of instruments that are tailored to the needs of each country.

    Achieving inclusive and sustainable growth will require going beyond a business-as-usual approach to undertake the following efforts concurrently:

    Invest in People: People that are healthy, educated, and well-equipped for the future can capitalize on new technologies, compete for jobs, and nurture thriving communities. The Bank Group’s Human Capital Project (HCP) is at the forefront of helping countries strengthen the health and education of their people. This requires that we also support women’s empowerment to ensure women are educated, healthy, and able to decide when and how many children to have, setting the stage for a demographic dividend and greater investment in the next generation.

    Build up Africa’s Digital Economy: The Bank Group is helping the region catalyze digital transformation to ensure that every African individual, business, and government is connected by 2030 – a vision that, if realized, can boost growth by up to two percentage points per year, and reduce poverty by one percentage point per year in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

    Support Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation: Africa’s poor are hardest hit by climate change, making investments in climate change resilience a top priority. The 2019 Africa Regional Strategy Update recognized climate change as one of six core areas for increased ambition and set new targets to support integrated landscape management of more than 60 million hectares in 20 countries, improve the livelihoods of 10 million farmers through climate-smart agriculture, and increase renewable energy generation capacity from 28GW to 38GW.

    The Bank Group also announced a set of major climate targets for 2021-2025 ahead of COP24, doubling its current five-year investments to around $200 billion to support countries to take ambitious climate action, with a strong focus on increasing adaptation. At the One Planet Summit in 2019, the Bank Group announced that it will provide $22.5 billion for climate adaptation and mitigation across Sub-Saharan Africa Region between 2021 and 2025. These commitments reflect the climate agenda of the IDA-19 replenishment, which called boosting support on adaptation and resilience and facilitating economic transformation through low-carbon and resilient transition.

    Address the Drivers of Fragility, Conflict and Violence: Sub-Saharan Africa faces serious challenges related to fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) that threaten to undermine development gains. Given the cross-border nature of conflicts, the World Bank is employing an approach that simultaneously focuses on the drivers of fragility while also supporting well-targeted regional initiatives to create opportunities for peace and shared prosperity.

    Create Jobs and Transform Economies: At a time when public resources are increasingly scarce, and the aspirations of African populations are rising, the World Bank Group is systematically leveraging all sources of finance, expertise, and solutions to help stimulate job creation and establish an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and investors, particularly those in the private sector.

    Make Institutions More Efficient and Accountable: The Bank is helping governments strengthen public policy processes, manage resources effectively, and reinforce fair and reliable delivery of public services. This includes encouraging responsible fiscal policy, enhancing debt management, strengthening regional financial institutions, and supporting structural reforms to enhance productivity. The World Bank’s GovTech initiative supports clients as they adopt digitalization in public sector services to foster transparency reduce fraud and decrease tax evasion.

    The Bank Group strategy in Africa also prioritizes regional integration and knowledge generation to maximize development impact for clients.

    Regional integration: The 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. The Bank’s program of regional integration projects in Africa spans energy and natural resources, trade, skills development, and the digital economy— issues that transcend national boundaries.

    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: Apr 23, 2020

  • As of April 2020, the World Bank approved $11.5 billion in lending to the Africa region for 87 operations in fiscal year 2020, including $1.4 billion in International Bank of Reconstruction and Development loans and $10.1 billion in International Development Association commitments. The Bank has an active portfolio in Africa of 671 projects totaling $84.1 billion. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic,  more than $280 million has been dedicated to COVID-19 emergency operations, with more operations under preparation totaling $2.10 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 $11 billion, with more than 70 projects in implementation.

    The Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement program (REDISSE) covers 16 countries and provides a total of $629 million in financing, strengthens health systems and intercountry collaboration to detect and respond to outbreaks of communicable diseases. 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 Nigeria, for example, the World Bank supports a multi-phased approach to improve the utilization of immunization plus and malaria services in multiple states. The project, known as the "Improved Child Survival Program for Human Capital," for a total of $650 million, will support the country's goal of reducing under-five mortality in the next decade.

    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 builds on the achievements, lessons, and challenges of the ACBP to propel a bold vision for transformation and climate action at scale, recognizing the urgency to not just secure Africa’s development in the short to medium term but, to cement these outcomes in the face of escalating climate impacts in the decades to come.

    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, in Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, and Togo, the Bank is preparing Digital Economy Country Diagnostics (DE4A) to assess the current state of the digital economy in each country, assess key levers that drive it, and consider ways in which the Bank can help them place digital technologies at the center of development plans.

    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.

    The Nachtigal Hydropower Project in Cameroon is crowding in private capital and reducing public debt as well as lowering the overall costs of service for electricity as the country starts meeting its energy demand through renewable sources. 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.

    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.

    Last Updated: Apr 23, 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: Apr 23, 2020

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PHOTO GALLERY

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In Depth

Coronavirus Sparks Recession

The latest economic analysis for the region predicts the pandemic could cost as much as $79 billion in output losses for 2020.

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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