By Fatou Dahaba
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Economic and Statistical Observatory for Sub-Saharan Africa (AFRISTA) and the Economic Commission for West Africa (ECOWAS) are currently convening in Banjul for the third seminar on the economic situation and short-term forecasts for ECOWAS English speaking countries .
The objective of the seminar is to share experiences and take stock of the recent economic situation and the macroeconomic estimate for the year 2022, forecasts for 2023, and projections for 2024 to 2025 in the ECOWAS English speaking countries (The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone).
It also seeks to contribute to the efforts made to inform the monitoring of the macroeconomic convergence in the ECOWAS countries and to orient national and sub-regional policy development and programmes.
Mr. Serge Edi, Deputy Director General of AFRISTA, said following the devastating impact of COVID-19 in 2020 the economy of the region contracted by almost 1 percent, which is 0.8 percent; but busted a growth rate of 4.2 percent, the following year.
According to him, recovery was largely attributed to the performances of all member states driven mainly by agriculture, export of raw materials and activities in the service sector; especially transportation and hospitality industries.
“Member states’ central banks also play a role in the economic recovery of 2021, not only by maintaining an accommodative monitoring policy to support the fight against COVID-19; and they went beyond their traditional mandate. In some instances, some central banks pay direct alleviation to business and industry- meaning they were sending direct credit to government and today, the current inflationary treasury in the region has forced most of the banks to reverse trend including the accommodative monitoring policies,” he said.
Mr. Edi expressed the opinion that policies such as the policy for alleviating impact of COVID-19 adopted by member states has laid the foundation to the current prices the region is facing, especially inflations which he said must be addressed.
He stated that the Russia-Ukraine war has led to the downgrading of the global growth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 6.1 percent to 3.2 percent; while the inflation upgraded to 8.3 percent against 4.7 percent, as predicted earlier based on reports from member states.
“The impact of global economic conditions, as well the impact of local political situations including conflict and security were significant,” the Deputy Director General of AFRISTA.
Bakary Dosso, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Chief of the Central for Demographic Dynamics for Development, said the West African region has already been shaken by structural challenges such as climate change, insecurity in the Sahel, political instability, and demographic trends, which constitute bottlenecks for economic growth and development.
“The ECA estimate indicates that the economic growth contracted by 0.6 per cent in 2020 in West Africa. In 2021, growth resumed slowly at 4.3 per cent, a performance well below the 7.6 per cent required to absorb the negative impact of the preceding year. In 2022, the economic growth is forecasted at 4.2 per cent amid inflation pressure in all countries of the community. Annual inflation is forecasted at 14.7 per cent in 2022, the highest rate of the last decade,” the Senior Economic Affairs Officer said.
He stressed that if the current dynamic continues, West African countries would not achieve key sustainable development goals targets on economic growth of 7.0 per cent, elimination of extreme poverty in all its forms, health and education.
Alagie Fadera, Director of Planning, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, said the seminar is important for countries to commit themselves to evidence based policies and planning to the availability of reliable and timely data, which they are going adequately to formulate policies, plans and strategies to address the development challenges they’re faced with.
“Despite the challenges, we will also create opportunities for us to be able to rethink our policies and how to make them robust to address the problems we are encountering as a country, sub-regional and continent,” he pointed.
Mr. Fadera added that the continent is confronted by climate change resilient, which is having a significant impact on various facets of their development and these entire combined challenges are speeding into macroeconomic and other socio economic challenges.
“In many countries we have been seeing the different inflation levels, for some countries in double digit, for the first time after a very long time of single digit inflation and contraction in GDP growth rate,” the Director of Planning, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs added.
The seminar is a peer-learning platform in the areas of economic monitoring, short-term economic forecasting, and monitoring; and seeks to contribute to the efforts made by countries and regional organizations in the implementation and monitoring of macroeconomic policies.
The event running from 11th – 14th October brought together statisticians, macroeconomists, and forecasters from ministries of finance and economic affairs, national statistical offices, and central banks, to review the economic situation of the region faced by internal and global challenges.