Sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19: An Unprecedented Threat to Development

April 2020


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Country Focus Article

Video Conversation: Adapting to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Chapter 2: Adapting to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to climate change, as it relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and has limited resilience and coping mechanisms. On average, climate change could reduce GDP growth by at least 1 percentage point in the month a climate shock occurs. Improving access to finance and insurance, education, health, telecommunications, and physical infrastructure would be most effective in raising resilience. Ensuring food security and raising agricultural productivity in the face of intensifying weather shocks will require targeted social assistance, crop diversification, and improved irrigation. While these measures involve large public spending, they should be prioritized as they will be more cost-effective than frequent disaster relief. Limited fiscal space poses a challenge and means that development partners’ support will be critical.

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Chapter 1: COVID-19: An Unprecedented Threat to Development

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis that threatens to throw the region off its stride, reversing the development progress of recent years and slow the region’s growth prospects in the years to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has spread through almost all countries. And as in the rest of the world, the health crisis has precipitated an economic crisis reflecting three large shocks: disruption of production and a sharp reduction in demand; spillovers from a sharp deterioration in global growth and tighter financial conditions; and a severe decline in commodity prices. As a result, the region’s economy is projected to contract by 1.6 percent this year—the worst reading on record. The economic crisis will exacerbate social conditions and aggravate existing economic vulnerabilities, while containment measures and social distancing will inevitably jeopardize the livelihoods of countless people. Decisive measures and support from the international community are urgently needed to limit the humanitarian and economic losses and protect the most vulnerable societies.