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.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy looks set to register another year of solid growth in 2015 (4½ percent). Still, this expansion will be at the lower end of the range by recent standards, and reflects the adverse shock that has hit some of the region’s largest economies due to the sharp decline in oil prices (Figure 1.1). The impact of this shock is set to be quite heterogeneous: for the eight oil exporters, it will pose a formidable challenge and, with limited buffers, will require them to undertake significant fiscal adjustment. For most other countries, lower oil prices represent a favorable development which, however, will be partly offset in some cases by lower prices of other commodities that they export.
With every twist and turn in the global financial crisis that started in 2007, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been at the heart of efforts to restore financial stability and return the world economy to sustainable growth. This year was no exception. The Fund was focused intensely on providing the financing, policy advice, and technical assistance that members need to manage economic and financial risks and achieve lasting growth. New nonconcessional financing arrangements were initiated for seven countries. At the same time, the institution was pursuing many strands of work to strengthen its approach to surveillance and policy design, to improve the instruments in its lending toolkit, and to improve the governance structure of the organization.
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.
After a major setback in late 2011, global economic prospects gradually improved in early 2012, but concerns over the strength of the recovery resurfaced in the second quarter. Stronger activity in the United States and policies in the euro area in response to its deepening economic crisis helped to address the sharp deterioration in financial conditions and boost market confidence in the first few months of 2012. However, downside risks remained elevated at the end of FY2012, and markets were jittery as concerns about sovereign debt in parts of Europe and pressure on the European banking sector resurfaced.
By 2035, the number of sub-Saharan Africans reaching working age (15–64) will exceed that of the rest of the world combined (Figure 2.1). This is a trend with potentially significant implications for both the region and the global economy, as described below:
This chapter reviews the extent and strength of integration of sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy, with a special focus on trade and participation in global value chains. It evaluates how trade integration has contributed to economic performance in recent decades. Looking ahead, it examines the factors likely to allow the region to tap its still substantial trade integration potential, in particular through better positioning in global and regional value chains to support durable growth and foster structural transformation.