Overview

  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s opportunities are vast, and its challenges persistent. Home to the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market, the continent is poised to create an entirely new development path harnessing the potential of its resources and people.

    Average growth rates across the continent are not yet reflecting this sentiment. Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise to a modest 2.6% in 2019 from 2.5% in 2018, which is 0.2 percentage points lower than the April forecast. However, this masks big differences between countries. Four of the fastest growing economies in the world in 2019 are in Africa: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Rwanda.

    The slower-than-expected overall growth in 2018 reflects ongoing global uncertainty,  increasingly from domestic macroeconomic instability including poorly managed debt, inflation, and deficits; political and regulatory uncertainty; and fragility. It also belies stronger performance in several smaller economies that continue to grow steadily.

    At the same time, the reco​​​very in Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa—the region’s three largest economies—has remained fragile and is bringing down the regional average. In Nigeria, growth in the non-oil sector has been sluggish, while in Angola the oil sector remained weak. In South Africa, low investment sentiment is weighing on economic activity.

    Excluding Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, growth in the rest of the subcontinent is expected to remain robust, although slower in some countries. The average growth among non-resource-intensive countries is projected to edge down, reflecting the effects of tropical cyclones in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, political uncertainty in Sudan, weaker agricultural exports in Kenya, and fiscal consolidation in Senegal.

    In Central African Economic and Monetary Community countries, which are also resource-intensive, activity is expected to expand at a modest pace, supported by rising oil production. Growth among metals exporters is expected to moderate, as mining production slows and metal prices fall.

    Several challenges remain and are holding back progress. 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; gender gaps persist and are keeping the continent from reaching its full growth and innovation potential, and 416 million Africans still live in extreme poverty.

    Last Updated: Oct 15, 2019

  • 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 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 World Bank’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 World 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 Mitigation and Adaptation: Africa’s poor are being hit hardest by climate change, making investments in climate change resilience a top priority. The Africa Climate Business Plan has delivered significant results in the areas of agriculture, integrated watershed management, ocean economies, climate resilience in coastal zones, and renewable energy. Since its launch, the Bank has approved a total of 176 projects for a total commitment of $17 billion. Looking ahead, IDA, our fund for the world’s poorest countries, will provide $22.5 billion for climate adaptation and mitigation in Africa from 2021-2025.

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

    Regional integration: 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. 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: Oct 15, 2019

  • As of January 2019, the Bank had an active portfolio in Africa of 618 projects totaling $73 billion.  Key focus areas 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:

    Fostering women’s and youth’s economic empowerment

    Africa cannot afford to lose out on the earnings potential of half its population, and capturing the demographic dividend is particularly crucial for the continent’s long-term economic growth.

    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.

    The Great Lakes Emergency Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Women’s Health Project has benefitted more than half a million women, including more than 21,000 poor and vulnerable women benefitted from economic empowerment activities and 18,000 youth benefitted from reproductive health services.

    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 key to unlocking a country’s human capital and driving economic growth and social development because they provide children with advantages that last a lifetime.

    The World Bank’s current portfolio includes $20 billion in investments across 156 projects on human development, and almost $6 billion in new investments are in the pipeline for 61 human development projects. 

    In Rwanda, the Bank supports a multifaceted approach to address chronic malnutrition through health and nutrition interventions, high-quality child feeding and hygiene practices, enhanced access to food through cash transfers, and support for improvements in household food security and dietary diversity through biofortification, labor saving technologies, and promotion of micro-nutrient enriched foods.

    Adapting to climate change and building climate resilience

    Africa is the lowest carbon emitter, and yet, it is more vulnerable to climate change than other regions. The World Bank’s Africa Climate Business Plan (ACBP) is a galvanizing platform for climate action and supports African governments in their urgent responses to climate change.

    The ACBP has financed 176 projects, and $17 billion in Bank financing for climate-resilient development throughout Sub-Saharan Africa has been delivered, which is twice the Bank’s resource mobilization target set out for 2020.

    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.

    Accelerating the High-Tech and Digital Economy

    The World Bank is supporting Africa’s vision to achieve universal and affordable access to ICTs 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.

    Deepening regional integration

    Regional projects create synergies, reduce costs, and make the provision of public services more efficient through economies of scale. For example, more than 40 million people are meeting their basic energy needs through products provided with the support of the joint World Bank-IFC Lighting Africa Program. This innovative effort was created for low income families, with the aim of providing off-grid solar lighting to 250 million people in the next decade. 1,792,090 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were avoided in Africa in the past year. 

    Last Updated: Oct 15, 2019

  • 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 15, 2019

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PHOTO GALLERY

Africa
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In Depth

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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

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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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