North Africa will drag down growth in the continent this year to below 5 percent for the first time in more than 20 years after the revolution in Tunisia sparked unrest in the Arab world, said the chief economist at the African Development Bank.
The economies of Tunisia and Egypt have been crippled since the eruption of anti-government protests fueled by soaring prices, unemployment and repression, which brought about the downfall of both countries’ decades-long leaders.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is driving growth while North Africa is dragging growth for the first time in at least two decades,” Mthuli Ncube, chief economist and vice president of the African Development Bank, told Reuters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund spring meeting, Reuters reports.
While North Africa will show meager growth this year, the rest of Africa will push growth forward, he said. East Africa’s average growth rate is forecast at 6 percent, Southern Africa is expected to grow at 4.5 percent, while growth in West Africa, excluding Ivory Coast, is forecast at 5 percent.
“We will see meager to anemic growth averaging 3 percent in North Africa. Overall African growth will be just below 5 percent,” Ncube said.
The protests against Arab autocrats that began in Tunisia in January have spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, demanding jobs, freedom and dignity.
Tunisia expects little economic growth this year and needs $4 billion in foreign loans to help it recover from the aftermath of the revolt that ousted President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 after 23 years of autocratic rule.
Egypt, meanwhile, is expected to grow 2 percent and needs $10 billion in funding from global lenders to cope with the costs of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in February.
Ncube, however, is bullish about Africa.
“What’s happening in North Africa is necessary. People want growth and justice. The world should see this as an investment destination,” Ncube said.