Ghana has suffered from large fiscal volatility around election cycles for the past two decades. This volatility has been identified as one of the key challenges for Ghana’s future development path in the 2018 World Bank Systematic Country Diagnostic. Fiscal deficits increased sharply and above 5% of gross domestic production (GDP) in all but the 2004 election year since 2000. At 11.5% of GDP, 2012 had the largest ever recorded fiscal deficit in Ghana. And the level of overshooting in fiscal election cycles has increased over the past decade with the discovery of offshore oil fields in 2017. Between 2005 and 2012, public expenditure rose rapidly – related to increased spending on wages due to the introduction of the single spine salary structure, which standardized the public sector pay scale across Government entities and grade levels – from 20 to 30% of GDP.
Ghana recently held a Family Planning (FP) 2020 stock-taking event as a countdown to the country’s FP 2020 goals and commitment made during the 2012 London summit. The conference, which brought together multi-sector stakeholders, reviewed Ghana’s progress, challenges and options to accelerate achievement of the country’s FP 2020 targets and commitment.
With a high unmet need for family planning compared to many other early demographic dividend countries across lower-middle income countries, three in 10 Ghanaian women who want contraception to space or limit births currently lack access. Access to contraception is a key strategic lever for development – to empower women, improve investments in children, and ultimately contribute to poverty reduction. Unplanned pregnancies, including teenage pregnancy, perpetuated by lack of access to family planning are linked with higher risks of birth complications such as maternal deaths and early child deaths, and malnutrition in children under-five, particularly in the critical window of child development - the first 1000 days. Securing access to family planning services therefore remains a critical component of building human capital in Ghana.
Kenya has been covered widely in economic news over the last decade, from the first large-scale application of mobile money to a vibrant technology hub in Africa. Indeed, Kenya experienced robust economic growth from 2005-06 to 2015-16, growing at an average annual rate of 5.3%, higher than the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. This growth translated into gains in the fight to reduce poverty, with about 4.5 million Kenyans escaping poverty. Poverty measured under the national poverty line declined from 46.8% to 36.1% of the population. However, a closer look shows that not every segment of the population benefited from this impressive growth.
Few countries can match Cabo Verde’s development progress over the past quarter of a century. Its Gross National Income per capita (GNI) grew six-fold. Extreme poverty fell by two-thirds from 30% in 2001 (when poverty measurement began) to 10% in 2015 (see first chart) which translates into an annual poverty reduction rate of 3.6%, outperforming any other African country during this period. Non-monetary poverty also dropped fast (see second chart). In many ways, Cabo Verde is a development star, and these achievements were made despite the disadvantage it faces as a small island economy in the middle of the Atlantic.
By 2035, Cameroon aspires to join the ranks of industrialized, upper-middle-income nations with low poverty rates, strong economic growth, and a functioning democracy. To realize that goal, the government’s strategy (Document de Stratégie pour la Croissance et l’Emploi, DSCE) envisions annual GDP growth rates of 5.5 percent and the creation tens of thousands of formal jobs each year. With a relatively more diversified economy than its more oil-dependent peers in the CEMAC region, the country seemed well-poised to achieve its objectives until at least halfway through the decade. However, Cameroon has been facing a combination of external headwinds and internal constraints that present challenges to its development aspirations, poverty remains high at 37.5 percent (in 2014).
Following the change of political leadership early in 2018, South Africa was gripped by a wave of optimism. Analysts raised their growth forecasts for the year significantly (Figure 1). At the World Bank, we were more cautious, warning in our 11th South Africa Economic Update that South Africa’s growth challenges were deep-seated and structural and would take considerable policy action and time before translating into higher growth. Nevertheless, we too raised our forecast, to 1.4% for the year. Although this made our forecast one of the most pessimistic among South African observers, we were wrong: we were too optimistic! Like other economists, we now expect growth for 2018 to have averaged less than 1%.
- sustainable development goals
- Gambia, The
- South Sudan
- South Africa
- Sierra Leone
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Cabo Verde
- Burkina Faso
In the Africa Chief Economist’s Office, we seek to generate knowledge on key development issues around the continent. We also host the Gender Innovation Lab, which – as the name suggests – specifically generates evidence on how to close the gender gap in Africa. Over the course of 2018, we’ve produced a range of products (regional reports and updates), but we also produce academic articles and book chapters seeking to answer key, specific development questions.
Last month, I attended the International Family Planning Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where policymakers from across the world gathered to strategize about ways to achieve a demographic dividend—the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that comes from having a young and productive labor force driving economic growth that is faster than population growth. I was heartened to be joined by ministers of finance and representatives of the highest levels of government, all of whom agreed that women’s empowerment–which centrally includes access to reproductive health services–-is essential for inclusive, sustainable growth.