WITH slower economic growth and high inflation, many African countries are struggling to meet the continent’s development goals due to the impact of severe and mutually reinforcing shocks.
Adam Elhiraika, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) explained that the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian war and resultant food and energy crisis, rising inflation, debt tightening, and natural disasters resulted in serious developmental challenges on the continent such as increased poverty and high inequality rates and lack of decent jobs.
Elhiraika was presenting an overview of recent Economic and Social Conditions in Africa at the ongoing meeting of Experts ahead of the 2023 Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
‘In Africa, growth dwindled from 4.6 per cent in 2021 to 3.6 per cent in 2022,’ he said.
According to the Report, in 2022 an additional 18 million new poor emerged in Africa and had more than half of the highest proportion of the world’s poor at 54.8 per cent.
‘This is alarming because 546 million people were living in poverty last year, which is more than half of the continent’s population,’ said Elhiraika.
Women and girls remain particularly vulnerable and the continent is facing a potential reversal of the hard-won gains made on gender equity.
Another challenge stressed during the meeting is inequality which remains pervasive across all African sub-regions and is particularly high in Southern Africa.
Among the top ten countries where wealth inequality was the highest, 7 of them (South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Angola, Malawi) are in the Southern Africa region, while 2 are in west Africa (Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome).
ECA estimates that although the economic outlook remains bleak, Africa is anticipated to grow by 3.9 per cent in 2023. However, the Commission cautions that this growth might be facing headwinds, especially with an unfavourable external environment created by the recession in both the United States and the eurozone and which are expected to weigh on commodity prices.
‘Fostering recovery and transformation in Africa to reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities’ is the theme of the ongoing meeting in Addis Ababa where countries are being urged to pursue pro-poor and inclusive macroeconomic policies and ensure access to affordable and innovative finance for an inclusive recovery.