Over the past few years, I have been heartened by the progress on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa. Along with the extended period of strong economic growth of the past 15 years came improvements in health indicators and standards of living. Now that the region’s economy has entered a rough patch, there is a risk that the progress that has reached so many will stall. A confluence of external and domestic factors is exerting severe strain on many countries, including the largest ones. So to reignite the engine of sustainable growth that has propelled the region in the recent past and secure favorable medium-term prospects, governments must implement a strong policy reset.
The pace of economic expansion in the region declined to 3½ percent in 2015, the slowest in some 15 years. The growth outlook varies greatly across countries in the region, but the IMF projects overall growth to slow further this year to 3 percent—well below the 6 percent or so observed over the past decade, and barely above population growth. Indeed, GDP per capita growth will be under 1 percent for two years in a row for the first time since the late 1990s.