Growth in sub-Saharan Africa has remained generally robust and is expected to gradually pick up in the coming years. Although near-term risks to the global economy have receded, recovery in the advanced economies is likely to be gradual and differentiated, acting as a drag on global growth, which is set to increase slowly from a trough in 2012. The factors that have supported growth in sub-Saharan Africa through the Great Recession—strong investment, favorable commodity prices, generally prudent macroeconomic management—remain in place, while supply-side developments should be generally favorable. Macroeconomic policy requirements differ across countries, but rebuilding policy buffers to handle adverse external shocks remains a priority in many countries.
Macroeconomic outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa continue to strengthen, reflecting domestic policy adjustments and a supportive external environment, including continued steady growth in the global economy, higher commodity prices, and accommodative external financing conditions. Growth is expected to increase from 2.7 percent in 2017 to 3.1 percent in 2018; inflation is abating; and fiscal imbalances are being contained in many countries.
Weakening growth and policy uncertainties cast a shadow over the fiscal outlook, even as budget deficits narrow and recent announcements by monetary authorities provide some respite on the financial front. Countries with stronger fiscal positions and lower public debt, including several emerging market economies, can afford to pause fiscal consolidation efforts, but in others adjustment must proceed at a pace that reflects medium-term adjustment needs, the state of the economy, and financing constraints. Where financing permits, flexibility should be allowed for automatic stabilizers to play in response to moderate growth shortfalls. Should growth fall well short of current expectations, countries with space should smooth their adjustment paths over 2013 and beyond. The United States and Japan must promptly define and enact clear and credible plans to return to fiscal sustainability over the medium term and buttress investor confidence.
Global activity strengthened in the second half of 2013 and is expected to pick up further in 2014–15, on account of a faster recovery in the advanced economies. In contrast, the growth momentum in emerging markets remains subdued, reflecting tighter external financing conditions and homemade weaknesses in some cases. Risks around the outlook for global growth have diminished somewhat, but remain tilted to the downside.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, there has been a spectacular increase in nonofficial cross-border capital flows to sub-Saharan Africa.1 With official development assistance to the region on a declining trend, these flows could provide much-needed financing for development initiatives and boost economic growth and welfare. However, large inflows could also pose macroeconomic and financial stability challenges such as economic overheating, currency overvaluation, and unsustainable domestic credit and asset price booms. In the absence of adequate fiscal and macroprudential frameworks, inflows may also encourage excessive borrowing by the public and private sectors, and exacerbate currency, maturity, and capital structure mismatches on balance sheets—leaving countries vulnerable to a sudden reversal of capital flows that may be triggered by factors extraneous to the recipient economy.
Economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is expected to remain relatively subdued in 2014. While the faster recovery of the advanced economies should strengthen external demand, this effect is likely to be offset by the negative impact of lower commodity prices and tighter financial conditions on domestic demand. Policy priorities include strengthening public finances, addressing potential financial fragilities, and implementing structural reforms to ease supply-side constraints and raise potential growth.
Fiscal balances weakened in most sub-Saharan African countries with the onset of the global economic crisis, with increases in deficits in the early stages of the crisis being partly offset by consolidation efforts as growth rebounded in 2010–12. Concern has been frequently expressed that governments may now be more constrained in their ability to provide fiscal support for economic activity in the event of adverse shocks.1
Consolidation efforts are yielding fruit, at least for deficits. In 2013, cyclically adjusted deficits are expected to fall below their precrisis levels in about half of the countries included in the Fiscal Monitor database.2 The evolution of debt ratios is more varied: they have declined in most emerging market economies, but not in most of the advanced economies, reflecting in many cases higher interest rate–growth differentials in the latter group. Consolidation packages have typically attempted to focus on measures that are supportive of potential growth, but countries with large adjustment requirements have had to use a broader brush, in many cases cutting public investment and raising income taxes. Institutional reforms have also been introduced to strengthen governance and credibility, including—but not only—in the euro area.
This chapter examines the rise in international sovereign bonds issued by African frontier economies and recommends policies for potential first-time issuers. Maintaining prudent fiscal frameworks consistent with debt sustainability is crucial for deriving lasting benefits from additional financing. Beyond that, first-time international sovereign bond issuers should focus on improving the composition and profile of their public debt under an appropriate debt management framework; adhering to best operational practices for first-time issuance; and locking in low interest rates while smoothing the maturity profile of the entire public debt portfolio. International sovereign bonds may not be the best option for financing infrastructure investment, and other funding options may need careful consideration.
Notwithstanding the progress mentioned in the preceding section, large financing requirements remain a source of near-term fiscal vulnerability in several advanced economies, while prospective increases in age-related spending loom large over the long-term horizon for many of them. Moreover, fiscal risks around the baseline projections are on the rise across country groups, given the uncertain growth outlook and large contingent liabilities, particularly from the financial sector.19 If history is a lesson, the path to restoring fiscal sustainability will be long and arduous for most advanced economies. Maintaining adjustment efforts over the long term will require packages that mesh flexibility and credibility (through the use of structural or cyclically adjusted targets), limit adverse social effects, and boost employment and labor supply through appropriate tax and other spending policies, backed by strong fiscal institutions.