IMF Cuts Africa Growth Forecast Amid Ebola Virus, Insecurity

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its growth forecast in sub-Saharan Africa because of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa and violence in at least five other countries.

Africa’s economy will expand 5Pct this year, about the same as in 2013, driven by infrastructure investment, a buoyant services sector and strong agriculture production, the IMF said.  In April, the Washington-based fund forecasted a 5.5Pct growth rate this year.

“The Ebola outbreak could have much larger regional spillovers, especially if it is more protracted or spreads to other countries, with trade, tourism, and investment confidence severely affected,” according to the IMF. “In Ebola-affected countries, fiscal accounts are likely to deteriorate, and, where public debt is manageable, fiscal deficits should be allowed to widen temporarily.” Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak of the virus in December.

On the other hand, worsening insecurity stemming from civil wars and Islamist militant attacks could also curbAfrica’s economic growth, according to the IMF. “The security situation continues to be difficult in Central African Republic and South Sudan, and remains precarious in northern Mali, northern Nigeria, and the coast of Kenya,” it reads.

Domestic economic challenges may also curb growth in countries such as South Africa that are facing electricity shortages and labor disputes, according to the IMF. In Ghana and Zambia, large macroeconomic imbalances have led to pressures on the exchange rate and inflation.

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