Dakar — The ending of Ivory Coast's crisis is proving to be a blessing for the economy of the sub-region. Despite international financial turmoil, high oil import prices and food shortages in the Sahel, the West African Economic and Monetary Union expects a comfortable growth rate for 2012, in contrast to last year.
The organisation, known by its French acronym UEMOA, attributes the growth above all to the strong recovery of Ivory Coast's economy since the end of its long-running conflict last year.
"Growth in Ivory Coast is expected to be 8 per cent whereas it was negative in 2011 (minus 5 per cent)," says Valeria Fichera, the International Monetary Fund's representative in Senegal.
According to UEMOA forecasts the economic zone, comprising eight mainly Francophone countries, will see a growth rate of 6.1 per cent this year compared to 1 per cent last year.
"Investors are coming back to Ivory Coast. That has benefits for all of West Africa, since it is the country that has the most immigrants (from the region). Besides, it accounts for 40 per cent of the union's gross domestic product," she says.
About 25 per cent of Ivory Coast's population is made up of migrants, for the most part from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali. When Ivorian companies closed down during war, they faced unemployment. As a result, the money they sent home to their countries of origin was affected. But economic recovery has brought new hope.
Already in March this year, the new governor of the West African Central Bank, Timok Meyliet Koné, forecast a moderate growth rate In March this year, the new governor of the West African Central Bank, Timok Meyliet Koné, was forecasting a moderate growth rate influenced by the financial crisis, the world economic slowdown and poor harvests in 2011-12.
Fortunately, the zone can now count on Niger. According to economic forecasts for sub-region, the fledgling oil producer will record the strongest growth in the zone, and its president has predicted a soaring rate of 15 per cent this year.
However, the IMF representative warned of continuing uncertainty about Ivory Coast's prospects following a resurgence of violence. At the same time, Niger has not yet fully recovered from a political crisis in 2009-2011 despite the peaceful election of a new president last year.
It is also uncertain how much impact stronger economic performances will have on ordinary people.
Presenting a report on human development in Africa in March this year, Helen Clark, administrator of the UN Development Programme, warned: "Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition."
This story was written under the auspices of the TRF/NORAD Journalism Training project.