Will Sub-Saharan Africa shed the Covid scourge?
If Sub Saharan Africa sheds the Covid scourge, the region could emerge as a winner in 2022, writes Leon Louw, WhyAfrica’s editor and founder.
Without ruling out the emergence of another mutated version of the Coronavirus, it is probably safe to put my head on a block and say that the world seems to be gearing up for a much brighter 2022. I have been warned by several more pessimistic friends not to jinx it again, as I did last year. However, despite a raging wave of Omicron in Europe and the USA, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have lost steam, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (there I go again, jinxing it!). Well, this is certainly the case in South Africa, where Omicron was first discovered (remember), and where the country’s tourism sector paid the ultimate price for its scientific excellence.
But let’s be honest, even if there is another monster busy mutating somewhere in the world (and I’ll eat my hat if we do not see Zeus emerging before the end of 2022), the global economy will have to rouse from its two-year slumber.
Without denying, or dismissing, the significance and impacts of Covid-19, Sub-Sharan Africa’s young population seems to have shaken the scourge easier than its good friends in the northern hemisphere (oops, I’ve jinxed it again and made assumptions without any scientific data to back my statement). And that is of course with a mediocre vaccination rate of only 9%, according to the World Health Organisation.
Europe’s untimely travel bans could not keep Omicron at bay, and while the infection rate surges in the north, the number of infections and overall death rate in Africa continues plummeting. Whatever the scientific reasons behind this trend, the fact is that most African countries have shown grit, determination, and resilience throughout the pandemic’s reign. Yes, there are massive economic and political challenges, and notwithstanding predictions that the impacts of global warming will be most severe in Africa, the wheels of African economies continue turning.
My prediction is that a gradual strengthening of the global economy (yep, I’ve put my foot in it again) will kickstart stuttering Sub-Sahara African economies in 2022, and lead into an exceptional 2023 and 2024. Sub-Saharan Africa will present unlimited opportunities for investment in the next five to ten years.
According to the World Bank Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than one billion, half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050. “With the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market, the continent is creating an entirely new development path, harnessing the potential of its resources and people.”
The World Bank predicts an economic expansion of 3.3% in Sub-Sharan Africa in 2021. According to the bank, this rebound, currently fuelled by elevated commodity prices, a relaxation of stringent pandemic measures, and recovery in global trade, remains vulnerable in light of low rates of vaccination on the continent, protracted economic damage, and a slow pace of recovery. Growth for 2022 and 2023 will remain just below 4%, continuing to lag the recovery in advanced economies and emerging markets.
This predicted growth, combined with encouraging structural and macroeconomic reforms in several countries could lead the way to increased inclusive growth over the long term. On the downside, the political and security risks remain high, and there are worrying trends of authoritarianism and a revival of military coups across the region. But Africa is a vast continent made up of 54 countries, and a military coup in Guinea, for example, does not affect Ghana or Gabon or Botswana. In fact, these incidents are isolated considering the overall size of the entire continent.
In their 2022 Africa outlook report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regards economic recovery and Covid-19 as the most important challenges. The IMF states that African policymakers will face the unenviable task of trying to boost their economies while simultaneously dealing with repeated Covid-19 outbreaks as they arise. To alleviate these problems, the IMF says Africa should play a bigger role in world affairs.
“Solutions to these global problems must involve all countries and all regions, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, with the world’s least vaccinated population, most promising renewable energy potential, and critical ecosystems,” the IMF says in its report.
The year 2022 will still be challenging, but as economies slowly recover, Africa will be at the centre of an economic revival. Thus, without jinxing it further, let’s just say that 2022 will be Africa’s year.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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