Africa in the news: Growth forecasts for Africa largely cut, Djibouti, Chad, Comoros, and Sudan vote, and UNICEF highlights Boko Haram atrocities

The World Bank and IMF cut growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa

This week, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released their revised GDP figures for the world economy. While the IMF downgraded the global GDP growth forecast from 3.4 percent to 3.2 percent the World Bank predicts a gloomier macroeconomic climate and downgrades this year’s global growth forecast to 2.5 percent from 2.9 percent. On Monday, as they opened this year’s Spring Meetings, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde stated that the potential exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union—the so-called “Brexit”—represents one of the key risks to the global economy. Other risks to the global economy include the refugee crises, increased protectionism, tax avoidance and climate change among others.

While advanced economies have been moderately recovering from the economic slowdown, the outlook for emerging and developing economies is worsening. After predicting a GDP growth rate of 4 percent in January for sub-Saharan Africa, the IMF revised its prediction and states that the sub-Saharan Africa region will grow at 3 percent in 2016, down from 3.4 percent in 2015. Nigeria, for example, saw the greatest GDP forecast revision. In January 2016, the IMF had predicted a 2016 GDP growth of 4.1 percent for the West African nation. This week, the fund cut that growth forecast to 2.3 percent, a 1.8 percentage point difference. This change is largely due to the slow growth in oil-exporting countries. The GDP growth rate of the other African powerhouse, South Africa, is predicted to lie at 0.6 percent, down from 1.3 percent in 2015. Still, there is a positive outlook for a few African countries. Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Rwanda will also see increased growth driven by increased investment, increased spending on infrastructure, strong consumer demand, and improved service sectors.

Election updates: Djibouti, Chad, Comoros, and Sudan vote

Over the past couple of weeks, a number of African countries have voted in presidential and runoff elections as well as referendums on their nations’ futures. Here’s a quick snapshot of the outcomes or vote-counting timelines of recent polls in four countries:

  • In Djibouti—the small yet influential nation home to the one of the busiest shipping ports in the world on the Gulf of Aden—incumbent President Ismail Omar Guelleh won his fourth consecutive five-year term in office since 1999 in the first round of the election with 87 percent of the vote. Several opposition parties boycotted the election (on Friday, April 8) after Guelleh chose to run for re-election, reneging on an earlier decision that he would not. Opposition members declared irregularities at polling stations, as well as police brutality and intimidation before the election in some cases.
  • In Chad, President Idriss Deby is expected to win a fifth term in office in elections held on Sunday, April 10—although the country is still waiting on provisional results to be published within two weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The African Union called the elections free, fair, and credible despite some irregularities.
  • In Comoros, votes are still being counted from the presidential runoff election held on Sunday, April 10. The first round election took place on February 21 and resulted in no clear winner, although the three leading candidates who advanced to the runoff were: Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi, local Governor Mouigni Said Baraka Soilihi, and Azali Assoumani, a former army chief of staff who seized power in a 1999 coup and won elections in 2002, ruling for another four years. The runoff’s results are expected to be announced by the end of this week.
  • In Darfur, Sudan, vote-counting of a referendum on whether to unite the Western regions of Darfur began on Thursday. Turnout was very high, with as much as 90 and 85 percent participation in North and West Darfur, respectively. Some rebel groups boycotted the referendum, claiming the Sudanese government has rigged the electoral process to keep Darfur divided since a united Darfur would pose a serious secessionist threat to Sudan, considering that a significant proportion of the country’s oil reserves is located in the Darfur regions. Results are expected next week, though the U.S. has already expressed concerns over “inadequate registration” in the referendum. 

UNICEF and Human Rights Watch report the effects of Boko Haram on children in Nigeria, Chad, Cameron, and Niger, including the rapid rise of the group’s use of child suicide bombers

On Tuesday, UNICEF released the report, Beyond Chibok, highlighting the massive rise in the use of child suicide bombers by the Western African terrorist organization Boko Haram. The statistics are devastating: According to the report, the number of such attacks has skyrocketed from four to 44 in just one year. Over the past two years, one in five of Boko Haram’s suicide attacks have used children. In addition, three-quarters of attackers by child suicide bombers are girls.

The report notes that, unsurprisingly, the Boko Haram crisis in the region has had other shattering effects on civilians, especially children, in the region. Over 1.3 million children have been displaced, over 195,000 suffer from acute malnutrition, and over 670,000 have not attended school in over a year. Human Rights Watch notes that Boko Haram has forced over 1500 schools to close and destroyed another 910. Amnesty International notes that about 2,000 girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since 2014. In addition, if kidnapped children manage to return home, they are often ostracized.

Relatedly, this week also marked the two-year anniversary of the kidnapping of the 276 Chibok girls from northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram—219 still remain missing. Protesters marched through Abuja, calling for more support from the government for finding the girls.

Also this week, Boko Haram released a “proof of life” video through CNN featuring 15 girls, whom the group claims are some of the Chibok girls. Many families have identified their daughters. The Nigerian government has confirmed that Boko Haram had sent them the video in order to start negotiations over the girls. The video itself is believed to have been taped in late December of last year.