April 14, 2020 / 12:55 PM / in 2 months

IMF projects a recession for sub-Saharan Africa in 2020

FILE PHOTO: A police officer is pictured at a road block while the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Abuja, Nigeria April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product is expected to contract 1.6% this year, compared 3.1% growth last year, as the coronavirus pandemic wrecks the region’s economies, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday .

Various African governments have imposed lockdowns and curfews to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but the restrictions are putting pressure on most economies — some of which were already in recession.

The IMF said in its World Economic Outlook that GDP was projected to fall sharply in South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy. The country’s GDP is projected to contract 5.8% in 2020 from growth of 0.2% in 2019.

South Africa entered a recession in the final quarter of last year as power cuts by state utility Eskom took a toll on the economy, while public finances were strained by bailouts to struggling state firms.

The country imposed some of the toughest restrictions on the continent to contain the coronavirus, including a five-week lockdown to the end of April. With production and spending curtailed, the economic outlook was set to remain grim.

The IMF also projected significant economic contractions in oil-exporting countries, with Nigeria’s GDP forecast to fall 3.4% this year after growing 2.2% in 2019. Angola’s economy was expected to remain in recession, contracting 1.4% in 2020.

The IMF and the World Bank - which has also projected a recession for sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 - are racing to provide emergency funds to African countries and others to combat the coronavirus and mitigate the impact of sweeping shutdowns aiming at curbing its spread.

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, editing by Larry King

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