Brighter economic prospects for Anglo-West Africa including Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 April 2018:

The economic forecast for Anglophone West Africa is looking brighter, according to analysis by Ecobank’s research team in the newly published Anglophone West Africa section of its flagship financial website.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is at last moving out of recession, Ghana’s growth continues to be strong, and the region’s smaller countries are picking up as they shake off the lingering effects of the Ebola outbreak in 2013-16.

Anglophone West Africa, which stretches from Gambia in the West to Nigeria in the East, is the second regional section of the website to go live. It covers six countries – Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia – and encompasses the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which draws together the mostly English-speaking countries of West Africa.

Data for the region shows that Nigeria accounts for an estimated 90% of regional GDP and exports (mostly crude oil).

The outlook for both Nigeria and Ghana, the second key member of the block, is good in 2018. Nigeria is improving oil production, Ghana is getting a boost from an expansionary 2018 government budget and rising energy production; Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are on the up as their recovery from the effects of Ebola gathers pace; and the positive political outlook in The Gambia is driving economic prospects.

Key factors in the region

Outside oil and gas, Anglophone West Africa is a major producer of soft commodities – cocoa, cashew nuts, natural rubber and wood – both for regional consumption and for export to world markets.

The region is an important exporter of hard minerals, including gold, diamonds, and manganese, iron and aluminium ores, with Ghana the leading gold producer.

Nigeria has developed the world’s largest sugar refining complex in Lagos and has successfully phased out imports of packaged and refined sugar.

Dan Sackey, Regional Executive for Anglophone West Africa & Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, commented: “West Africa is coming out of a difficult period where it has faced many challenges – recession, Ebola, falling oil and other commodity prices – but we are now back on a growth trajectory. The recovery in commodity prices, notably oil and cocoa, has given a boost to economic growth, especially in Nigeria and Ghana, lifting the entire region.

“It is essential that West Africa uses this opportunity to press ahead with the diversification of the economy away from dependence on oil and minerals, with a focus on increasing output and processing of soft commodities, improving logistics and using the region’s financial and stock market leadership. Provided West Africa’s governments can maintain fiscal discipline, the growth outlook is very positive.”

“Ecobank understands regional and local business customs, regulations and country-specific risks better than any other bank in Africa because we operate on the ground in 33 markets,” said Dr Edward George – Ecobank’s Head of Group Research. “Our new website offers reliable and comprehensive economic, currency, banking, commodity and trade data on markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping both us and our clients to make investment and other financial decisions as part of our seamless service,” he said.

Ecobank’s flagship Africa Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC) on-line resource provides key facts for businesses and investors on the economies of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the key sectors of activity.

The website gives a country-by country analysis, including the general economic outlook, details of the FX, FI and banking sectors, and overview of the energy and soft commodity sectors, as well as of key trade flows. Country profiles for Anglophone West Africa are now published and available online.

Country guides for Francophone West Africa are already live. Country guides for other regions of Sub-Saharan Africa – Central Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa – will be posted online in the next few months. Look out for updates on the twitter feed @ecobankresearch.

FICC facts and figures

The region comprising Nigeria and the Rest of non–francophone West Africa, stretching from Gambia in the West to Nigeria in the East. It encompasses the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which draws together the mostly English-speaking countries of West Africa.

WAMZ is made up of six countries, dominated by Nigeria. Ghana is the second key member of the block, owing to its significant exports of cocoa and gold, while Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are relatively minor players.

In addition to oil and gas, the region is a major producer of soft commodities – cocoa, cashew nuts, natural rubber (NR) and wood – both for regional consumption and for export to world markets and an important exporter of hard minerals – gold, manganese, iron and aluminium ores, and diamonds.

The region is also a financial hub, holding an estimated 39% of Middle Africa’s banking assets in 2015, dominated by Nigeria (34% of Middle Africa’s total). Nigeria and Ghana host two of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, in Lagos and Accra, respectively


  • Ghana is Middle Africa’s leading gold producer, outputting 128 tonnes in 2016 and holding an estimated 2,000 tonnes of reserves.
  • The country has a significant output of other minerals – alluvial diamonds (142,000 carats produced in 2016), manganese ore (2mn tonnes), bauxite (1.3mn tonnes) and aluminium (34,000 tonnes).
  • Ghana is a nascent producer of crude oil whose importance continues to grow as output and reserves increase. The huge Jubilee offshore fields have recoverable reserves of 730mn barrels. Since the first commercial production began in December 2010, output has risen from 31,000 bpd in 2011 to 161,000 bpd in 2017.
  • Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa producer (after Côte d’Ivoire), producing one fifth (20.2%) – some 950,000 tonnes in 2016/17 – of the world’s cocoa.
  • In 2017 Ghana produced 560,000 tonnes of crude palm oil – the second largest producer in SSA after Nigeria, 165,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts, 83,000 tonnes of timber, 60,000 tonnes of shea nuts (used for food and cosmetics), 53,000 tonnes of bananas and 22,000 tonnes of natural rubber (NR).
  • Ghana produces a wide range of agricultural goods, including food crops such as milled rice (390,000 tonnes in 2016),


  • Following the Ebola outbreak that crippled the economy in 2014-15 Guinea is now entering a period of stability with improvements in the country’s key growth drivers, mining and agriculture, and construction of a new dam that will generate some 1.9bn kWh by 2021.
  • Guinea has diverse mineral resources, most of which are untapped, including the world’s largest reserves of bauxite (aluminium ore), estimated at 7.4bn tonnes.
  • It is the world’s fifth largest producer of bauxite with estimated output of 24.5mn tonnes in 2016, worth around US$622mn.
  • Guinea is a middle-ranking gold producer, with estimated output of 49 tonnes in 2016 (mostly artisanal), as well as of diamonds, with estimated output of 112,797 carats in 2016.
  • Gold has overtaken bauxite as Guinea’s most valuable export, worth US$1.5bn in 2016, almost two-thirds of all exports.


  • Liberia’s is continuing to recover following the Ebola outbreak
  • Liberia is Africa’s third largest producer of natural rubber (NR), with estimated output of 75,400 tonnes in 2016
  • Although palm oil output remains low at around 45,000 tonnes, this could surge in the future following large-scale investment in plantations by South-East Asian palm oil companies.
  • Owing to the country’s popularity as a flag of convenience since 2015, re-exports of ships have been Liberia’s most valuable export, worth US$256mn in 2016.
  • Gold (worth US$230mn in 2016) has eclipsed Liberia’s traditional export of natural rubber, which reached US$107mn in 2016, equivalent of 6.5% of Africa’s total natural rubber exports.


  • Nigeria is recovering from recession thanks to further improvements in oil production and other commodities and some improvement in prices.
  • Hydrocarbons dominate Nigeria’s economy and its exports. As Africa’s largest crude oil producer, Nigeria outputs an average of over 2mn barrels a day of crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons accounted for an estimated 91.4% of total export earnings in 2016. Revenue from crude oil sales make up over 75% of government revenue
  • Nigeria is the largest gas producer in Middle Africa, with output of over 2trn cubic feet a year and estimated gas reserves of 187trn cubic feet (three times the country’s crude oil reserves)
  • Recently Nigeria has become the largest producer of cement in West Africa, with total estimated installed capacity of 42.7mn tonnes in 2015
  • Nigeria is an agricultural powerhouse producing an array of cash and food crops. It is the world’s largest producer of cassava and yams – the key staples of the population – with estimated output of 55mn tonnes and 45mn tonnes respectively in 2016
  • Nigeria is Africa’s third largest cocoa producer, with estimated production of 230,000 tonnes in 2016/17 (August-July).
  • The country produced 151,000 tonnes of natural rubber (NR) in 2014, making it the region’s second largest producer, after Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Nigeria is Africa’s fourth largest producer of cashew nuts, with estimated output of 190,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts in 2017, 5.7% of world production.
  • Nigeria has developed the world’s largest sugar refining complex in Lagos, phasing out imports of packaged and refined sugar. Raw sugar imported from Brazil is made into fortified refined sugar, both for domestic consumption and for export to the sub-region.
  • The largest soft commodity exports are cocoa and cocoa products, worth US$900mn in 2016

Sierra Leone

  • Economic activity is likely to expand modestly in 2018 as the country recovers from the impact of Ebola and other economic effects. In 2016 the country’s exports were four times higher than the previous year which had been severely affected by the Ebola outbreak.
  • Iron ore used to be a major commodity, (an estimated 19.2mn tonnes was produced min 2014), but the slump in prices and the impact of Ebola led to the collapse of the country’s two main sources, reducing output to almost zero.
  • In 2016, shrimp (worth US$159mn) and honey (US$142mn) became the country’s most valuable exports.
  • The country imports consumer goods, notably vehicles and machinery, pharmaceuticals, electronics and furniture, some of which are re-exported to its landlocked neighbours.
  • Sierra Leone has an emerging soft commodity export market in inulin (polysaccharide), worth US$88mn in 2016.

The Gambia

  • Following recent political developments, prospects are looking better; inward investment is likely to increase if international partnerships improve.
  • As a tiny resource-poor country, Gambia’s key commodity is wood (for fuel), with estimated output of 60,000 tonnes in 2016.
  • Groundnuts are the country’s most valuable soft commodity export, worth US$10mn in 2016 (estimated 80,000 tonnes in 2016).
  • Food is Gambia’s most valuable export, including cereal, flour and dairy products (US$18mn in 2016), sugar (US$8mn) and palm oil (6mn).
  • The country’s most valuable manufactured exports are textiles (US$9mn in 2016) and woven fabrics (US$7mn).

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