Southern Africa: Forget El Nino - Drought Is Already Scorching Southern Africa's Economies

Parched earth in a drought (file photo)

First the good news: forecasts suggest SA and its neighbours will dodge an El Nino this summer, which often heralds drought. The bad news is much of the region is already being scorched by drought, which is hitting agricultural production, power output and economic growth. A summer of simmering discontent may be looming.

As South Africa grapples with falling dam levels and concerns about looming shortages of water, spare a thought for neighbours to the north. In September, Zambian President Edgar Lungu said the country's 2019 economic growth forecast had been halved to 2% from 4% in the face of a persistent drought that has hit crop production and hydroelectric power generation.

In perennial basket case Zimbabwe, where decades of mad policies and outright looting have shattered the economy, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract this year, as drought puts the finishing touches on Zanu-PF incompetence. Malawi has also experienced slower economic growth because of poor rains.

For Zimbabwe and Zambia, a critical point may have already been reached on the power generation front. The Kariba Dam is a major source of power for both countries. According to the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages the dam, Kariba's...

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