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World Economic and Financial Surveys

Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa

Dealing with the Gathering Clouds

October 2015


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Growth in sub-Saharan Africa has weakened after more than a decade of solid growth, although this overall outlook masks considerable variation across the region. Some countries have been negatively affected by falling prices of their main commodity exports. Oil-exporting countries, including Nigeria and Angola, have been hit hard by falling revenues and the resulting fiscal adjustments, while middle-income countries such as Ghana, South Africa, and Zambia are also facing unfavorable conditions. This October 2015 report discusses the fiscal and monetary policy adjustments necessary for these countries to adapt to the new environment. Chapter 2 looks at competitiveness in the region, analyzing the substantial trade integration that accompanied the recent period of high growth, and policy actions to nurture new sources of growth. Chapter 3 looks at the implications for the region of persistently high income and gender inequality and ways to reduce them.

Front Matter

Chapter 1: Dealing with the Gathering Clouds
Economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa has weakened markedly. To be sure, growth—at 3¾ percent this year and 4¼ percent in 2016— still remains higher than in many other emerging and developing regions of the world. Still, the strong growth momentum evident in the region in recent years has dissipated in quite a few cases.

  • Strong Headwinds from the External Environment
  • More Difficult Domestic Conditions
  • Lower Growth amid Persistent Risks
  • Special Focus: Creating Fiscal via Better Domestic Revenue Mobilization
  • Annex 1.1. Estimating the Tax Frontier

Chapter 2: Competitiveness in Sub-Saharan Africa: Marking Time or Moving Ahead?
In recent years the sub-Saharan African region has experienced strong real GDP growth and substantial trade integration. However, growth in sub- Saharan Africa’s trade volumes has not kept up with growth in the volume of global trade during this period and its trade imbalances have begun to rise in recent years. Meanwhile, the drivers of growth since the mid-1990s—improved policies, increased aid, debt relief, abundant global liquidity, and high global commodity prices—have started to dissipate. Moving forward, to sustain rapid growth the region will need to diversify away from commodities, increase export sophistication, and integrate into global value chains. This chapter assesses how competitiveness indicators in sub-Saharan Africa have evolved, and on this basis asks if the region is well placed to diversify its export base and sustain growth. It also discusses policy options to improve competitiveness.

  • Setting the Stage
  • Indicators of Competitiveness: What Do They Reveal?
  • Competitiveness and Growth
  • Some Policy Implications
  • Annex 2.1. Methodology on Construction of GVC-Based REER
  • Annex 2.2. Construction of Import Average and Export Average Relative Price Measures
  • Annex 2.3. Estimation of Duration Dependence of Growth Spells

Chapter 3: Inequality and Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has among the highest levels of inequality—both income and gender—in the world, even after accounting for the lower levels of per capita income in the region. With growing international evidence that such inequality can impede macroeconomic stability and growth (Box 3.1), this chapter considers factors behind high levels of inequality and how they differ from the experience in other parts of the world, and discusses policy options for reducing inequality and raising sustainable growth.

  • Sub-Saharan African Trends in Inequality
  • Inequality and Growth Performance in the Region
  • What Drives Income Inequality?
  • Policies to Reduce Inequality
  • Conclusions
  • Annex 3.1. Understanding Income and Gender Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Annex 3.2. Drivers of Inequality

Statistical Appendix


Publications of the IMF African Department, 2009-15