Sub-Saharan Africa to see world's slowest growth: IMF

Sub-Saharan Africa is set to record the slowest growth of any world region this year, the International Monetary Fund has said.

That's as the region struggles to bounce back from a downturn triggered by the global health crisis.

And the IMF said its now time for wealthy countries to step up.

Abebe Aemro Selassie, head of the IMF's Africa department, said the way the international community can help is by improving access to vaccines.

The continent has fallen behind in immunizations - partly because wealthier countries have cornered supplies.

Selassie said mechanisms such as the WHO-backed COVAX sharing scheme need to be matched by "financing and investment".

That's so the global supply of vaccines can be "massively scaled up... as quickly as possible".

Last year 32 million people were plunged into extreme poverty as the region's economy contracted by 1.9%, the IMF said.

This year it is expected to grow by 3.4%, according to the IMF's regional economic outlook, published on Thursday (April 15).

That's well below a global forecast of 5.5%.

Africa's rebound will also be uneven.

Following a 7% contraction last year, South Africa is predicted to see growth of 3.1%.

Oil producers Angola and Nigeria will grow by 0.4% and 2.5% respectively.

Kenya is expected to enjoy record GDP growth of 7.6% while Ethiopia's will slow to 2% from 6.1% in 2020.

The IMF also reported that seventeen nations were in debt distress or at high risk from it last year.

At a time when the region's governments are fiscally squeezed, the report warns their needs are growing.

For most countries, vaccinating 60% of the population will require an increase of up to 50% in healthcare spending.

The IMF estimated additional external funding needs for the region for the 2021-2025 period at $425 billion.