Investment inflows, spending spur Sub-Saharan GDP growth rise

by Reuters
Monday, 7 April 2014 13:14 GMT

* Growth seen at 5.2 pct from 4.7 pct last year

* Political troubles, insecurity, inflation a worry

* Energy deficit, poor transport curbing growth

* FDI flows to weaken but oil, metals to attract flows (Adds risks to outlook, FDI, capital flows)

By Richard Lough

NAIROBI, April 7 (Reuters) - Growing investment in Africa's natural resources and rising household spending will accelerate economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa to 5.2 percent in 2014 from 4.7 percent last year, the World Bank said on Monday.

New oil and gas discoveries in countries including Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania have underpinned rising capital inflows into the region, and growth will speed up to 5.4 percent in both 2015 and 2016, the bank said.

The risks to the region's outlook include lower commodity prices brought on by weaker growth in emerging markets, and the reversal of capital flows, it said.

The bank also saw "domestic risks from political unrest, security problems and inflationary pressures."

Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa said the bank was concerned that although numbers were rising, the growth was not being reflected on the ground.

"We do see these high headline numbers. We've been talking about growth rates of 4.5-5 percent, with some countries hitting 6 or 7 percent ... But we don't necessarily see that growth, which takes place let's say in the oil sector in Angola or Equatorial Guinea, translating into improved living conditions for most people," Ferreira said.

"That is fundamentally our concern. Growth is not necessarily taking place where the poor people are working."

A chronic energy deficit and poor transport links continued to curb growth levels regionally, the bank said.

"Poor physical infrastructure will...continue to limit the region's growth potential," Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice president for Africa, said in a statement.

"Significantly more spending is needed in most countries in the region if they are to achieve a lasting transformation of their economies."

In its Africa Pulse report, the Washington-based body said capital flows into Sub-Saharan Africa rose to an estimated 5.3 percent of regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, outpacing the global developing-country average of 3.9 percent.

Net Foreign Direct Investment into the region jumped 16 percent to a near-record $43 billion as foreign firms exploited hydrocarbon finds, including those in eastern Africa where massive gas finds have been made in Tanzania and in Kenya where commercial quantities of oil have been struck.

"FDI flows are expected to be lower in 2014 due to weaker commodity prices and slower growth in emerging markets. Still, new discoveries of oil, gas and metals are expected to attract substantial FDI flows to the region," the bank said.

On capital flows, the bank said that as the Federal Reserve continues to taper its asset-buying programme and financial conditions in the United States and other developed economies tighten, capital inflows are projected to fall in 2014.

The bank said that fiscal deficits widened in 2013 and debt to GDP ratios rose across the region.

"The largest deterioration of fiscal balances occurred among oil exporters and low-income countries," the report said.

Debt to GDP ratio for the region rose to 34 pct in 2013 from 29 pct in 2008, with significant differences across countries. (Editing by James Macharia and Angus MacSwan)

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