Africa in the News: World Bank Predicts Rise in African Growth 2015-2017, Despite Ebola Impact; Kenyan President Kenyatta Goes to The Hague; Nigerian Oil Exports to the United States Cease

World Bank Report Foresees Increase in Economic Growth for Africa in 2015-2017

On Tuesday, the World Bank released its latest issue of Africa’s Pulse—a biannual publication that highlights the most recent data and analysis regarding economic trends in Africa—which projected robust African GDP growth in the coming years, in contrast to weak global growth. According to the report, sub-Saharan African economies are expected to expand by 5.2 percent in 2015 and 2016 and 5.3 percent in 2017—up from 4.6 percent in 2014. The heightened growth is attributed to a confluence of factors, including a relative decline in violence from previous years, improvements in political stability and the influx of investors attracted by the possibility of high returns by the continent. However, the report also recognizes the detrimental impacts of Ebola, terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, fiscal deficits and a decline in Chinese demand for African commodities, which could stifle growth if not effectively managed.

Furthermore, the report emphasized that, in spite of sub-Saharan Africa’s growth, it is “lagging sharply in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); for example, the region has achieved only a third of the poverty target of halving the proportion of people living under $1.25 a day, while globally this target has already been met.”

On Wednesday, the World Bank also issued a statement regarding a new study which predicts that if the Ebola virus spreads to other countries in the region beyond the three most highly affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) the economic costs could reach approximately $33 billion.

President Kenyatta Attends International Criminal Court Hearing

After being summoned to a pre-trial hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya appeared on a voluntary basis before the ICC on Wednesday. The purpose of the hearing was to determine the status of the trial against President Kenyatta, who is charged with crimes against humanity for playing an indirect role in inciting violence following the 2007 presidential elections. During the hearing, the prosecution argued that the Kenyan government has been obstructing the trial by withholding financial statements and intimidating witnesses, seven of whom have withdrawn from the case. In response, the defense stated that it has already provided ample evidence to the prosecution and that no further information would alter the course of the case, and therefore it should be dropped. In the coming weeks, the panel of judges presiding over the case will be expected to make a decision on whether to go to trial or abandon the case.

For some additional views on Kenyatta’s case, please see the following Africa in Focus article: Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta Deserves Support of the International Community.

Nigeria Halts Oil Exports to the United States

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Nigeria, the largest producer of oil in Africa, stopped exporting crude oil to the United States in July 2014. Since 2005, U.S. crude oil imports have declined by nearly a third from 10.8 million barrels per day to 7.6 million, with imports from Nigeria decreasing from a peak of 1.3 million barrels per day in 2006 to only 0.5 million in 2012, and then  again to 100,000 earlier this year. According to the Financial Times, this reduction in Nigerian imports is a consequence of the “shale revolution” in the U.S. which has boosted domestic production of crude oil and, in turn, significantly reduced its trade with international oil exporters that produce a similar quality crude product. As a result, Nigeria has redirected its crude oil exports toward Asia, expanding its sales by approximately 40 percent this year with the top four oil importers in Asia: China, India, Japan and South Korea. If the U.S. continues to prioritize domestic production of crude oil, some analysts have argued that the oil trade between the U.S. and Africa may contract altogether, as other African exporters may consider reorienting their exports toward Asian markets as well.