The region is seeing a modest growth uptick, but this is not uniform and the medium-term outlook remains subdued. Growth is projected to rise to 3.4 percent in 2018, from 2.8 percent in 2017, on the back of improved global growth, higher commodity prices, and continued strong public spending. About ¾ of the countries in the region are predicted to experience faster growth. Beyond 2018, growth is expected to plateau below 4 percent, modestly above population growth, reflecting continued sluggishness in the oil-exporting countries and sustained growth in non-resource-intensive countries. A number of countries (Burundi, DRC, South Sudan, and parts of the Sahel) remain locked in internal conflict resulting in record levels of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, with adverse spillovers to neighboring countries.
Growth momentum in sub-Saharan Africa remains fragile, marking a break from the rapid expansion witnessed since the turn of the millennium. 2016 was a difficult year for many countries, with regional growth dipping to 1.4 percent—the lowest level of growth in more than two decades. Most oil exporters were in recession, and conditions in other resource-intensive countries remained difficult. Other nonresource-intensive countries however, continued to grow robustly. A modest recovery in growth of about 2.6 percent is expected in 2017, but this falls short of past trends and is too low to put sub-Saharan Africa back on a path of rising living standards. While sub-Saharan Africa remains a region with tremendous growth potential, the deterioration in the overall outlook partly reflects insufficient policy adjustment. In that context, and to reap this potential, strong and sound domestic policy measures are needed to restart the growth engine.
Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa this year is set to drop to its lowest level in more than 20 years, reflecting the adverse external environment, and a lackluster policy response in many countries. However, the aggregate picture is one of multispeed growth: while most of non-resource-intensive countries—half of the countries in the region—continue to perform well, as they benefit from lower oil prices, an improved business environment, and continued strong infrastructure investment, most commodity exporters are under severe economic strains. This is particularly the case for oil exporters whose near-term prospects have worsened significantly in recent months. Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region of immense economic potential, but policy adjustment in the hardest-hit countries needs to be enacted promptly to allow for a growth rebound.