The impact of coronavirus on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Simi Siwisa, Absa Group Head of Public Policy

This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Lagos, Nigeria – First Gate Market during the lockdown in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, April 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

The IMF anticipates that the “Great Lockdown” will have a more devastating impact on the global economy than the Global Financial Crisis. For the African continent, it is forecasting “an unprecedented threat to Africa’s development with a decline projected at “1.6% in 2020, and real per capita income to fall by even more – 3.9% on average.” This is because many African economies are disproportionally affected by sudden stops in the global economy. A collapse in global demand and supply has resulted in a sharp decline in key commodity prices and export volumes. Related to this, flight to safety has resulted in tighter financial conditions with more than $4.2 billion outflows from African countries since February 2020. Less optimistic, the World Bank forecasts that Sub-Saharan Africa will “contract 2.1% to 5.1% from growth of 2.4% last year, costing the region $37 billion to $79 billion in output losses’. Under any scenario, the outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa remains bleak, and urgent interventions are required to prevent unmitigated health, social, economic and political crises. Debt relief is an important component of the crisis-response package. As David Pilling put it in the Financial Times, debt relief to Africa is in the self-interest of the rest of the world. However, for these efforts to work and not sow the seeds of future financial problems, the lessons from past debt relief initiatives and the changed nature of Africa’s debt must be taken into account. Continue reading “The impact of coronavirus on Sub-Saharan Africa”

Gender equality in West Africa

Gender equality in West Africa? The key role of social norms

By Gaëlle Ferrant, OECD Development Centre, and Nadia Hamel, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

Despite some progress, gender equality remains unfinished business worldwide, including in West Africa and particularly in the Sahel1. Such West African countries as Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone have closed the gender gap in primary school enrolment. However, youth (aged 15-24) illiteracy rate in Chad is still twice as high for women than for men. In Liberia, only one-third of girls were enrolled in secondary school in 2015. Women are increasingly represented in the Senegalese parliament, and the proportion of female MPs almost doubled in the last five years, from 23% in 2012 to 42% in 2017. Nevertheless, women’s equal political participation remains a major challenge throughout the region. Women in parliaments increased only marginally from 13% in 2007 to almost 16% in 2017, with wide disparities across countries ranging from 6% in Nigeria to 42% in Senegal.

Continue reading “Gender equality in West Africa? The key role of social norms”

Food prices must drop in Africa: How can this be achieved?

By Thomas Allen, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

After the 2007-08 crisis, we got into the bad habit when discussing food prices of focusing almost exclusively on volatility and overlooking the question of the level of prices. Of course, reasons were good for this; between February 2007 and February 2008, world food prices jumped 60%. These increases combined with local factors had dramatic effects, particularly in West Africa, where millions of households already had insufficient income to cover their basic nutritional needs. Today, according to OECD and FAO projections, food prices are expected to remain stable in the medium-term. This is a good time to re-examine some important questions.

Are food products cheap in sub-Saharan Africa?

The question may seem surprising, as food is no doubt cheaper in the poorest countries. This is the first thing that any tourist would tell you, and it is confirmed by statistics. Sub-Saharan countries do indeed have the lowest prices in absolute terms (see figure). African food products are therefore much more affordable…for the European consumer. What about for the African consumer? Continue reading “Food prices must drop in Africa: How can this be achieved?”