Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Johannesburg/Abuja/Lagos — Growth in Africa’s two largest economies may be sputtering along but that won’t stop the continent’s GDP from expanding at the fastest pace since at least 2012.

GDP growth for the continent is forecast accelerate to 4% in 2019, up from an estimated 3.5% in 2018, making it the fastest-growing region in the world after Asia, according to the African Development Bank. And that’s despite Nigeria and SA, which make up almost half of the continent’s GDP, “pulling down Africa’s average growth,” as the Abidjan-based lender said in its latest economic outlook report.

Nigeria’s GDP will expand by 2.3% in 2019, which is below the rate of population growth, as the government struggles to reduce the nation’s oil dependence and attract foreign investment. SA’s expansion will be even slower, at 1.7%, as the continent’s most industrialised economy battles to recover from 2018's recession. Both countries are in the AfDB’s list of the 10 slowest-growing economies.

Thys Louw, assistant portfolio manager for emerging-market fixed income at Investec, talks to Business Day TV about economic growth in Africa

While the powerhouses in Western and Southern Africa struggle to gain meaningful momentum, the continent’s economic growth will once again be driven by East Africa, which will be the fastest-expanding region for the fifth straight year. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania all feature on the AfDB’s list of the 10 fastest-growing economies for 2019.

Egypt, the biggest economy after Nigeria and SA, will also help drive growth. Output in the Arab world’s most-populous country will rise about 5.5% in 2019 as the government’s structural reforms attract more investment.

Subdued growth in Southern Africa is due to SA’s weak output, which affects neighbouring countries, the AfDB said. While West Africa’s prospects are more upbeat, they may be clouded by risks including uncertainty in global commodity prices and security concerns in some countries, the lender said.