Overview

  • Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 2.3 percent for 2018, down from 2.5 percent in 2017. Economic growth remains below population growth for the fourth consecutive year, and although regional growth is expected to rebound to 2.8 percent in 2019, it will have remained below three percent since 2015.

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

    In Nigeria, growth reached 1.9 percent in 2018, up from 0.8 percent in 2017, reflecting a modest pick-up in the non-oil economy. South Africa came out of recession in the third quarter of 2018, but growth was subdued at 0.8 percent over the year, as policy uncertainty held back investment.  Angola, the region’s third largest economy, remained in recession, with growth falling sharply as oil production stayed weak.

    Growth picked up in some resource-intensive-countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, as stronger mining production and commodity prices boosted activity alongside a rebound in agricultural production and public investment in infrastructure. In others, like Liberia and Zambia, growth was subdued, as high inflation and elevated debt levels continued to weigh on investor sentiment. In the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, a fragile recovery continued as reform efforts to reduce fiscal and external imbalances slowed in some countries.

    Non-resource-intensive economies such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and several in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, including Benin and Côte d’Ivoire recorded solid economic growth in 2018.

    However, many challenges remain. 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 poverty is widespread. While growth is expected to increase in 2019, it will remain insufficient to reduce poverty significantly. Total poverty headcount at the international poverty line ($1.90/day in 2011 PPP) is projected to decline only marginally.

    Last Updated: Apr 11, 2019

  • The World Bank Group strategy for Africa builds on opportunities for growth and poverty reduction to support structural transformation, economic diversification, resilience, and inclusion. The region is made up of a combination of low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries. 18 countries are fragile and conflict-affected states. 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 by providing a wide range of instruments – both traditional and innovative – tailored to the needs of the countries.

    Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.

    The strategy focuses on the following priority areas:

    Empowering women to change fertility dynamics and accelerate human capital gains: The World Bank, via its new Human Capital Project (HCP) is at the forefront of helping countries strengthen their human capital. 44 countries, including 15 from Africa, have joined a first cohort of HCP countries committed to invest more and better in their people. While every country faces unique obstacles and opportunities, three widespread challenges put at risk young Africans’ survival, education, and health: (i) high fertility; (ii) fragility, conflict, and violence; and (iii) suboptimal financing. Boosting women’s empowerment is at the crux of these three challenges and our work will continue to support efforts that ensure that women are educated, healthy and able to decide when and how many children to have, helping reduce fertility and investing in the next generation. A population that is healthy, educated, and well-equipped for the future is the best way to eradicate poverty in Africa and contribute to the world’s stability and prosperity.

    Accelerating Africa’s digital economy: Africa has the opportunity to harness the digital economy as a driver of growth and innovation, but if it fails to bridge the digital divide its economies risk isolation and stagnation.  With digital economy investments and reforms, Africa may be able to accelerate, possibly even leapfrog the traditional growth model, and transition from an agriculture-based economy to a digital economy, leaping over intermediate steps, while building core infrastructure, systems, and competencies. The World Bank Group, through the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) Moonshot initiative, is helping the region catalyze digital transformation and massively scale-up efforts and resources to build the foundations of a thriving digital economy.

    Climate change: Africa’s poor are likely to be hit hardest by climate change, particularly changes in temperature and rainfall patterns. In the face of increasing climate-related risks, investing in climate change adaptation and resilience mechanisms and disaster risk management will remain a top priority. The Africa Climate Business Plan, launched in 2016, has delivered significant results ahead of schedule, particularly in the areas of climate-smart agriculture, integrated watershed management, climate-smart ocean economies, climate resilience in coastal zones, social development, and renewable energy. Since its launch, the World Bank has approved a total of 176 projects for a total commitment of $17 billion of Bank financing. This is twice the Bank’s 2020 resource mobilization target of $8.5 billion set out under the ACBP when it launched.

    Regional integration: Regional integration in Africa remains a critical emphasis of our strategy to improve connectivity, leverage economies of scale, and get collective action by countries to address shared challenges. There will be a greater focus on fewer and bigger operations in areas like the digital economy, promoting power trade, human capital, and sub-regional fragility hotspots. The World Bank Group will continue to scale up successful regional and country level approaches.

    Maximizing finance for development: At a time when public resources are increasingly scarce, and the aspirations of African populations are rising, the World Bank Group has embraced the Maximizing Finance for Development approach to systematically leverage all sources of finance, expertise, and solutions that will help create an enabling environment for investors, particularly those in the private sector. While private participation in Africa is on the rise, with total investment in infrastructure increasing by 151% from $2.5 billion in 2014 to 6.3 billion in 2015, there is still much more scope for all actors to work together. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the WBG, most of the energy generation conducted in Africa is handled by the private sector, and in a clean way. Through the maximizing finance for development (MFD) approach, we have mobilized over $2 billion in private investment in Kenya and nearly a billion in Cameroon so far.

    Boosting resilience to conflict and violence: Sub-Saharan Africa faces serious challenges related to fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) that threaten to undermine development gains.  With violent conflict surging, the fight to end extreme poverty in Africa will require a stronger focus on addressing the underlying drivers of fragility in order to create opportunities for peace and shared prosperity. Through the IDA 18 Risk Mitigation Regime, we are providing more resources for countries such as Niger and Guinea to mitigate the drivers of FCV. Together with the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and global technology firms, the World Bank is developing the Famine Action Mechanism, a new initiative that harnesses technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to strengthen our ability to forecast famine risks and ensure funds are released before a crisis emerges. In countries like Somalia or the Central African Republic, we are focusing our efforts on building state capacity and legitimacy, strengthening accountability and inclusive institutions, and ultimately building the trust needed between citizens and the state for long-term peace and stability to take root.

    Knowledge: Knowledge is essential to our effort to improve development outcomes and make aid more effective. Country Economic Updates, produced in consultation with member countries and other stakeholders, help promote substantive discussions around key policy issues. Analytical work on structural transformation, on macroeconomic vulnerabilities, on fragility and poverty, on improving governance, but also on more specific areas such as private investment opportunities in Africa, women’s entrepreneurship, stunting, learning and access to education, and urbanization have also been recently completed. 

    Last Updated: Apr 11, 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, 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 maximizing finance for development.

    A few highlights of our development results include:

    Fostering women’s and youth’s economic empowerment

    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.

    The Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Program (GEWEL) in Zambia targets girls and women at two critical phases, supporting 14,000 adolescent girls to attend secondary school and 75,000 working-age women to gain access to grants, trainings and mentoring to increase livelihood productivity. The program adopts a “cash-plus”, productive inclusion model of social protection with linkages across government and private sector to achieve multi-dimensional outcomes promoting increased earnings, gains in education and health, women’s rights, birth and national registration, and financial inclusion. This coordinated approach supports the client’s goal to build a national flagship empowerment program to help combat poverty.

    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. Early years investments are key to unlocking a country’s human capital potential and driving economic growth and social development. Children who are well nourished, nurtured and protected from stress carry advantages with them that last a lifetime.  The World Bank is employing a multisectoral approach to reduce stunting, expand access to early learning and harness social protection opportunities to reach the most vulnerable.  In Rwanda, the Bank is supporting 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 is more vulnerable to climate change than other regions. The World Bank’s Africa Climate Business Plan (ACBP) has proven to be a galvanizing platform for climate action in the region and is supporting African governments in their urgent response to climate change. The ACBP has financed 176 projects and $17 billion in IDA and IBRD financing for climate-resilient development throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, exceeding the Bank 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 are contributing 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. In Mozambique, integrated landscape management is maximizing finance for development through the mobilization of commercial resources for agriculture and forest value chains. It is also leveraging private equity for protected area management. By promoting partnerships between the private sector and communities, the ACBP is making headway in creating more sustainable models that strike a balance between economic and conservation goals.

    Harnessing technological developments to improve access to clean and reliable energy

    At only 37%, energy access in Africa lags behind other regions, placing an unsustainable drag on growth. The Bank is supporting operations in Africa to increase access through grid extension and expansion of the transmission network, innovative off-grid electrification solutions, expansions of renewable generation capacity, development of regional power pools and improvement of service efficiency.  For example, 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: Apr 11, 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.  Along with France, Germany, the European Union (EU), African Development Bank (AFDB), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank Group is a founding member of the Sahel Alliance, which aims to strengthen the peace-security-development nexus in G5-Sahel countries by expanding access to services and economic opportunities.  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 11, 2019

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Additional Resources

Regional Contacts

WASHINGTON
The World Bank
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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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