A look at the IMF WEO April 2013: Exploiting the continued resilience of SSA growth

IMF map

The map is taken from the newly released April 2013 International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook (p.67). It is a map of Sub-Saharan Africa: 2013 GDP Growth Forecasts. The deep blue countries according to the key on the lower left corner of the map represent countries within Africa expected to grow at a rate greater than or equal to a whopping 6%. Look how many there are—almost the entire sub-Saharan Africa. That’s simply amazing and remarkably impressive for the continent. For a clearer picture click on the picture or go here. For graphical representations of SSA’s continued resilience click THIS. For a comparison of Africa with the world, click here.

This report’s prognosis is not unlike the World Bank Africa’s Pulse released April 2012. While this is good news, it is critical how this growth will be managed by African leaders and how the dividends from this robust resilient growth will translate into better lives for the citizens of these countries. The gap between growth and the human development index of these nations MUST be reduced. What good is growth if it does not improve the livelihoods of the people? Hopefully African governments would understand that growth is not forever and therefore devise strategic plans whiles it lasts to take advantage of this window of opportunity that has been opened. Part of taking advantage of this includes transforming the growth into present tense equitable distributions of wealth to its citizens while channeling some of that wealth into credible investments that will sustain these countries when lean years come. What do I mean concretely?

Growth needs to be stewarded in such a way that it translates into the following for the ordinary African:

  • long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy)
  • being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level)
  • having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income)
  • respect for human rights
  • stability of democracy
  • reduction of inequality

[http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/Human_development_indicators.pdf] p.263

When the growth translates into these, then we can say that human progress is being achieved and rising incomes are having an impact on well-being. This is very doable.

Below are a few quotes from the report:

Activity in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to remain robust, with both resource-rich and lower-income economies benefiting from robust domestic demand p.9

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to continue growing at a strong pace during 2013–14, with both resource-rich and lower-income economies benefiting from robust domestic demand (Figure 2.15). The external environment is the main source of risks to growth, particularly for middle income and mineral-exporting economies. Given the still-uncertain global environment, countries whose policy buffers are thin and where growth is strong should seek to rebuild fiscal positions without undermining productive investment p.67

The main risks to the outlook for sub-Saharan Africa stem from the external environment, although domestic security and political risks should not be discounted. At least two of the downside scenarios discussed in Chapter 1 would pose challenges for the region—the euro area downside scenario, under which sub-Saharan Africa’s middle-income countries would be especially affected, and the reduction in investment in emerging market economies (including South Africa), which would weaken key commodity prices and hit mineral exporters. Countries that regulate the prices of food and fuel products would face budgetary pressure in the event of price shocks to these commodities. Relatively few elections are scheduled for 2013, but disruptions could occur in some cases; the security difficulties in the Sahel region also pose a threat to activity in affected countries p.68

In conclusion, the report is favourable to Africa. What is needed are African leaders who will take advantage of the window of opportunity to the benefit of its people while reducing or doing the best they can to insulate their countries and region from the external risks.

A key to leadership is the realisation by leaders that leadership is not about leaders but rather about those being led. This is especially true in public leadership. It’s all about the public or the people to whom leaders are accountable. The  led are the focus. When leaders have this mindset, more often than not, that’ll succeed because they’ll hopefully always carry the people on their hearts and shoulders. The actions of leaders who cultivate such a mindset are driven by a will to secure a better livelihood for the people. Such leaders will steer affairs to this end—and such is what Africa needs at this critical juncture in history.