Sub-Saharan Africa economies to grow 2.3%-3.4% this year - World Bank

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to post economic growth of 2.3%-3.4% this year, the World Bank said in a new report on Wednesday, bouncing back from a pandemic-induced 2.0% contraction last year.

Workers of a local factory begin the production of personal protective gear for local frontline health workers as commissioned by the government, during the partial lockdown in Accra to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Accra, Ghana April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

Like other economies around the world, the region was forced to adopt strict lockdown measures in the first quarter of last year to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, hitting key economic activities like tourism and trade.

“For most countries in the region, activity will remain well below the pre-COVID-19 projections at the end of 2021, increasing the risk of long-lasting damage from the pandemic on people’s living standards,” the bank said.

The recovery, which will also be aided by ongoing efforts to vaccinate people against the disease, is expected to vary among individual nations, the World Bank said.

Diversified economies like Kenya and Ivory Coast, as well as mining-dependent ones like Botswana and Guinea, will grow robustly as rising confidence attracts investments, it said.

Significant risks, however, still remain, the bank warned.

“The resurgence of the pandemic in late 2020 and limited additional fiscal support will pose an uphill battle for policy makers,” the bank said.

During the second and third waves of the pandemic, some nations have seen their daily COVID-19 infections surge by 40% compared with the first wave of the pandemic, the World Bank said, weighing on recovery prospects.

Last week, Kenya imposed new, partial restrictions on the capital Nairobi and four adjacent counties to curb the spread of the coronavirus as it reels from a third wave of infections.

Governments should support the projected economic recovery by strengthening their policy interventions, the Word Bank said, adding that a new continental free trade bloc inaugurated at the start of this year could be key.

“The next twelve months will be a critical period for leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area in order to deepen African countries’ integration,” it said.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Richard Pullin