African Growth at 7-Year High, But Not Thanks to Its Major Economies

Growth in Africa’s two largest economies may be sputtering along but that won’t stop the continent’s gross domestic product from expanding at the fastest pace since at least 2012.

GDP growth for the continent is forecast to accelerate to 4 percent this year, up from an estimated 3.5 percent 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 South Africa, 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 percent 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. South Africa’s expansion will be even slower, at 1.7 percent, as the continent’s most-industrialized economy battles to recover from last year’s recession. Both countries are in the AfDB’s list of 10 slowest-growing economies.

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 10 fastest-growing economies for 2019. Egypt, the biggest economy after Nigeria and South Africa, will also help drive growth. Output in the Arab world’s most-populous country will rise around 5.5 percent this year as the government’s structural reforms attract more investment.

Subdued growth in southern Africa is due to South Africa’s weak output, which affects neighboring 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.


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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: EJ Yao [1], [2].

Africa’s New Free Trade Deal Has Enough Signatories to Go Into Force

It is now official: Africa’s free trade agreement has drawn enough signatures to go into operation.

On Tuesday (Apr. 2), The Gambia’s parliament was the 22nd nation to ratify the agreement, the minimum threshold expected to approve the deal among the 55 member states of the African Union. The move posits a major step forward for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was created last March in Rwanda. The trade agreement is set to become operational within a month after the required number of endorsements are deposited with the AU chairperson’s office.

Once in place, the AfCFTA will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion—making it the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization seven decades ago. African leaders hope the agreement will eliminate current high tariffs, generate employment opportunities for a rapidly growing young workforce, and harmonize the work of already-existing regional economic communities. It could also enhance intra-African trade by 52.3% annually, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

“Posterity will recall this day,” the ex-president of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka wrote on Twitter. His sentiments were shared by the former executive secretary of UNECA Carlos Lopes who wrote, “Africa made it.” Lopes noted that it took the continent a year to operationalize the trade deal, “an absolute record for these type of agreements.”

Trade deals have a reputation for being slow and drawn-out affairs, with the European Union-Canada deal, for instance, taking seven years to negotiate after being 22 years in the making.

Yet not all is rosy with the historic free trade agreement. Africa’s largest economy Nigeria—along with Benin and Eritrea—is yet to sign the agreement, presumably due to pressure from trade and labor unions. Only 15 out of the 22 nations that have ratified the agreement have also submitted their ratification documents at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Private sector leaders have also expressed their concern about how the deal will be executed and if governments will be bold enough to move the deal forward. “The challenges are going to be in the implementation,” Naguib Sawiris, the executive chairman of the Egyptian investment holding Orascom said at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda last week.

In a speech at the same conference, Rwandan president Paul Kagame said making sure AfCFTA succeeds represents “the very highest consequence for Africa’s future.” He acknowledged the role of politics and policy in driving countries and the continent forward, stating that he reached out to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to sign the deal.

“Whatever we try to do, even in terms of economic development, the result comes back to the politics surrounding it,” he said. “If the politics is bad, everything else is bad. That is why open, responsive, and accountable governance is so critical.”


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Visa-free travel in Africa for Africans: Ghana makes most progress

For Africans, travelling the continent can be tedious, as only 10 of its 55 territories grant either visa-free entry or visas on arrival to all Africans. In fact, it can be easier for Americans or Europeans to travel the continent than for its own citizens. This impacts economic growth, as restrictions to the free movement of people ultimately limits intra-regional trade, investment and business expansion. 

However, according to the African Development Bank’s Africa Visa Openness Report, there have been some improvements. The report measures and ranks countries by how easy it is for visitors from other African states to gain entry (i.e. whether they get visa-free access, visas on arrival, or have to apply for a visa). In 2016, over a third of countries introduced more liberal visa policies. These include South Africa, which has approved a 10-year multiple-entry visa for African businesspeople and academics, as well as São Tomé et Príncipe granting 13 African countries visa-free access.

But it is Ghana that has made the greatest progress – it has jumped to sixth place on the index, up from 22nd in 2015. Former president John Dramani Mahama announced last year a decision to issue visas on arrival for African Union member states, valid for 30 days. These are currently issued at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport, with other ports of entry expected to follow suit. Ghana now offers visa-free access to nearly a third of all African countries, and visas on arrival to about two-thirds.

Senegal, Tunisia and Malawi have also made noticeable improvements. Senegal has joined the top 20 countries on the index (ranked in 15th place), currently granting visa-free access to 42 countries (up from 16 in 2015). Tunisia now provides 21 countries visa-free entry, while Malawi offers liberal access to citizens of half the countries on the continent (up from a third in 2015).