IMF’s Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook (REO)

Thursday, July 23, 2020
11:00 am – 12:30 pm EDT

Please join the Institute for International Economic Policy for a virtual discussion of the International Monetary Fund’s Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook

11:00 – 11:05 a.m. Welcoming Remarks:

James Foster, George Washington University

Jennifer Cooke, IAFS Director, George Washington University

11:05 – 11:35  a.m. Chapter 1: Covid-19: An Unprecedented Threat to Development

Presenter: Andrew Tiffin John, Senior Economist, International Monetary Fund

Discussant: Louise Fox, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings, and on the Advisory Board of the G-7
Inclusive Growth Financing Forum, former USAID Chief Economist and World Bank official

11:40 – 12:05 p.m. Chapter 2: Adapting to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presenter: Seung Mo Choi, Senior Economist, International Monetary Fund

Discussant: Stephen C. Smith, Chair, Economics Department, and Professor of Economics and International Affairs, George Washington University

12:05 – 12:30 p.m. Chapter 3: Digitalization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presenters: Preya Sharma, Special Assistant to the Director, African Department, International Monetary Fund

Discussant: Esther Chibesa, Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions for SSA, Citigroup; and Michael Mutiga,
Managing Director and Head of Corporate Finance for SSA, Citigroup

12:30 p.m.  Concluding Remarks

Summary Chapter: A Cautious Reopening

The outlook for 2020 for sub-Saharan Africa is considerably worse than was anticipated in April and subject to much uncertainty. Economic activity this year is now projected to contract by some 3.2 percent, reflecting a weaker external environment and measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Growth is projected to recover to 3.4 percent in 2021 subject to the continued gradual easing of restrictions that has started in recent weeks and, importantly, if the region avoids the same epidemic dynamics that have played out elsewhere. Africa’s authorities have acted swiftly to support the economy, but these efforts have been constrained by falling revenues and limited fiscal space. Regional policies should remain focused on safeguarding public health, supporting people and businesses hardest hit by the crisis, and facilitating the recovery. The region cannot tackle these challenges alone, and a coordinated effort by all development partners will be key.


Chapter 2: Adapting to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to climate change, as it relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and has limited resilience and coping mechanisms. On average, climate change could reduce GDP growth by at least 1 percentage point in the month a climate shock occurs. Improving access to finance and insurance, education, health, telecommunications, and physical infrastructure would be most effective in raising resilience. Ensuring food security and raising agricultural productivity in the face of intensifying weather shocks will require targeted social assistance, crop diversification, and improved irrigation. While these measures involve large public spending, they should be prioritized as they will be more cost-effective than frequent disaster relief. Limited fiscal space poses a challenge and means that development partners’ support will be critical.


Chapter 3: Digitalization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly becoming digitally connected and closing gaps with the rest of the world. Digital solutions have taken on added importance as countries grapple with the unprecedented fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. While countries have leveraged digital solutions and policy responses, the connectivity gap between sub Saharan Africa and the rest of the world suggests that greater digital readiness could have allowed the region to do even more. Analysis conducted before the pandemic found that a one percentage point increase in internet penetration in the region can raise per capita growth by 0.1–0.4 percentage points. There does not appear to be an impact on overall employment, although the share of service sector jobs increases. Evidence suggests that digitalization can help reduce corruption, improve public sector accountability and efficiency, and support financial development. However, digitalization brings new risks (e.g., cybersecurity, business continuity) and challenges to macro-policy making (e.g., monetary policy transmission, changes to the tax base). As attention turns to policies for the recovery, the pandemic will likely serve to accelerate the digital transformation. Policies to enable and leverage greater connectivity include investing in complementary infrastructure and human capital; developing legislative and regulatory frameworks; and supervisory powers to ensure consumer protection and address risks.


James E. Foster is the Oliver T. Carr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics at the George Washington University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University and holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (Mexico). Professor Foster’s research focuses on welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate and enhance the wellbeing of people. His joint 1984 Econometrica paper (with Joel Greer and Erik Thorbecke) is one of the most cited papers on poverty. It introduced the FGT Index, which has been used in thousands of studies and was employed in targeting the Progresa CCT program in México. Other research includes work on economic inequality with Amartya Sen; on the distribution of human development with Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva and Miguel Szekely; on multidimensional poverty with Sabina Alkire; and on literacy with Kaushik Basu. Foster regularly teaches introductory and doctoral courses on international development and each spring joins with Professor Basu in presenting an undergraduate course on Game Theory and Strategic Thinking, to which staff and Board members of the World Bank are also invited. Professor Foster is also Research Fellow at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Department of International Development, Oxford University, and a member of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity (HCEO) Working Group, Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, University of Chicago. He also previously served as an Advisory Board Member on the World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty.


Jennifer CookeJennifer G. Cooke is director of the Institute for African Studies at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. The Institute serves as central for research, scholarly discussion, and debate on issues relevant to Africa. She is a professor of practice in international affairs, teaching courses on U.S. Policy Toward Africa and Transnational Security Threats in Africa. Cooke joined George Washington University in August 2018, after 18 years as director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she led research and analysis on political, economic, and security dynamics in Africa. While at CSIS, Cooke directed projects on a wide range of African issues, including on violent extremist organizations in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, China’s growing role in Africa, democracy and elections in Nigeria, religion and state authority in Africa, “stress-testing” state stability in Africa, Africa’s changing energy landscape, and more. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on U.S.-Africa policy and has provided briefing, commentary, and testimony to the media, US Congress, AFRICOM leadership and the U.S. military. She has traveled widely in Africa and has been an election observer in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, and Nigeria. As a teenager, she lived in Cote d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic. She holds an M.A. in African studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. in government, magna cum laude, from Harvard University.


Andrew TiffinAndrew Tiffin is a senior economist at the IMF, working in the regional studies division of the Fund’s African Department. He is also keenly involved in the effort to incorporate artificial intelligence/machine-learning techniques into the standard analytical toolkit of the Fund. Previously, he has worked on Middle Eastern countries, with a particular interest in refugee issues in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as numerous countries in Europe–he was part of the Italy team during the debt crisis of 2012, and part of the Russia team for the global financial crisis of 2008. Raised in Sydney, Andrew is an Australian national. He received his post-graduate training at Princeton University, where he obtained both a Ph.D. in economics and an M.P.A. in international relations. In addition to his work with the Fund, Andrew has held positions at the Reserve Bank of Australia, and with the Australian Government.


Louise Fox Louise Fox is an experienced development economist who specializes in strategies for employment creation, opportunity expansion, economic empowerment, and poverty reduction. She has advised governments in the developed and developing world, international organizations, and philanthropic and non-profit organizations on problem diagnosis, strategies for results, and outcome measurement. She held full-time positions at USAID (as Chief Economist) and at the World Bank. She is currently affiliated with the African Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the Blum Center for Developing Economies, University of California, Berkeley. She was previously affiliated with the Overseas Development Institute, where she led a major research project. Louise has published in the areas of inclusive growth, structural transformation, youth employment, the political economy of poverty reduction, gender and women’s economic empowerment, employment, labor markets, and labor regulation, pension reform, reform of child welfare systems, social protection, effective public expenditures in the social sectors, and female-headed households and child welfare. Her most recent book was Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, published by the World Bank in 2014.


Seung Mo Choi is a Senior Economist working on regional surveillance in the IMF’s African Department. He has worked on banking crises, financial market policies, climate change, low-income country issues, and capacity development, including in the IMF’s European Department and in the Institute for Capacity Development. His research has been published in economics and finance journals such as International Economic Review. Prior to joining the IMF, he worked as an Assistant Professor at Washington State University and obtained a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in economics from Seoul National University.


Stephen C. SmithStephen C. Smith is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University. In 2018 he was UNICEF Senior Fellow at the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, Florence, Italy. Smith received his Ph.D. in Economics from Cornell University and has been a Fulbright Research Scholar, a Jean Monnet Research Fellow, a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, a Fulbright Senior Specialist, a member of the Advisory Council of BRAC USA, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. He has twice served as Director of the Institute for International Economic Policy at GWU. Smith is the co-author with Michael Todaro of Economic Development (12th Edition, Pearson, 2014). He is also author of Ending Global Poverty: A Guide to What Works (paperback edition Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and co-editor with Jennifer Brinkerhoff and Hildy Teegen of NGOs and the Millennium Development Goals: Citizen Action to Reduce Poverty (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He is also author or coauthor of about 45 professional journal articles and many other publications. Smith’s recent research has focused on extreme poverty and strategies and programs to address it; and on the economics of adaptation and resilience to climate change in low-income countries, emphasizing autonomous adaptation by households and communities and its effects, and adaptation financing.


Preya SharmaPreya Sharma is a senior economist in the African Department of the IMF where she is Special Assistant to the Director. Her research has focused on structural transformation, the future of work, and digitalization in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as emerging market crises and development. Before joining the IMF she was the Head of Emerging Markets at HM Treasury in the UK. She holds a Masters in Public Administration in International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School and a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics.


Esther Chibesa Picture

Esther Chibesa has 20 years of diverse corporate banking experience, serving in various capacities for Citigroup in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. In her current role, Esther is driven by Africa’s promise, and seeks to realize the opportunities presented at the intersection of technology, regulatory evolution, and inclusive finance. She leads a team in the visioning and execution of a transaction services strategy that addresses the continent’s ongoing financial services transformation. She leads the execution and deployment of innovative treasury & trade finance solutions for multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations across Sub-Saharan Africa. In her various roles within the organization, she has championed the development of several groundbreaking solutions such as fully integrated tax & fiscal collections systems, receivables digitization solutions, automated mobile money channels and settlement processes, and enhanced, digitized trade and supply chain solutions. She is a past recipient of the prestigious Top 40 Women under 40 (Business Daily Kenya), past member of the Junior Achievement Zambia Board, is an alum of University of Botswana (First Class Honors), and holds an MBA from Heriot Watt Business School, Edinburgh University.



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