There are at least 32 million more people living in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and countries in the region will need about $425 billion in additional external funding over the next five years, the IMF said on Thursday.
“The outlook for sub‑Saharan Africa is expected to diverge from the rest of the world, with constraints on policy space and vaccine rollout holding back the near-term recovery,” said Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the IMF Africa Department, as he released the April Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa.
‘While advanced economies have deployed extraordinary policy support that is now driving their recoveries, for most countries in sub‑Saharan Africa this is not an option.”
The regional economy contracted by 1.9 percent in 2020 though it is likely to bounce back with a growth forecast of 3.4 percent for this year. Per capita output is not expected to return to 2019 levels until after 2022.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s recovery is challenged by the lack of COVID vaccines that have been administered elsewhere in the world.
“Some advanced economies have secured enough vaccine to cover their populations several times over. In contrast, many sub‑Saharan Africa countries are struggling to simply vaccinate essential frontline workers,” said Selassie. “Few countries in the region will achieve widespread vaccine availability before 2023.”
The IMF cautions that there is more uncertainty with this outlook because of the pandemic, with the main risk that Africans in the region will see repeated waves of COVID-19 infection before the vaccines become available.
“More positively, faster‑than‑expected vaccine supply or rollout could boost the region’s near-term prospects,” Selassie said.
Image: Abebe Aemro Selassie/IMF