Tanzania’s economy to grow by 6.8% in 2019
The World Bank suggests Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Tanzania to likely slowdown to 6.6% for the year 2018 from a 7.1 percent expansion in 2017.
This year 2019, the Bank estimates that Tanzania’s economy will grow by 6.8 percent and rise to 7.0 percent in 2020.
But the government expects Tanzania’s economy to grow by 7.2 percent in 2018 and accelerate to 7.3 percent in 2019, despite a slowdown in credit to the private sector and rising bad loans in the country’s banking sector.
The state-run National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in December that Tanzania’s GDP grew by 7.0 percent in the first half of 2018 from a 6.7 percent rise in the same period a year ago, while the country’s inflation rate dropped to a 10-year low in November, helped by slower rises in food prices.
“In fast-growing countries, such as Rwanda and Tanzania, the (economic) expansion will be supported by public investment in infrastructure and strong agricultural growth,” said the World Bank in its 264-page report.
“Inflation is expected to pick up across the (Sub-Saharan Africa) region in 2019, reflecting the pass-through of currency depreciations during 2018 and domestic price pressures among metals exporters and non-resource-intensive countries … price pressures are likely to intensify in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.”
Tanzania’s annual headline inflation rate rose marginally to 3.3 percent in December from 3.0 percent in November, the lowest inflation in a decade.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned last month that a credit squeeze coupled with a slowdown in government spending could dampen prospects for faster economic growth in Tanzania.
The lender, which warned that nearly half of Tanzania’s 45 banks are vulnerable to adverse shocks and risk insolvency, forecast the economy by 6.8 percent this year.
The government plans to raise spending by 2.4 percent in the 2018/19 fiscal year with the fiscal deficit expected to increase on the back of higher infrastructure spending.
The fiscal deficit is seen reaching 3.2 percent of GDP in the 2018/19 fiscal year (July-June), up from around 2.1 percent in 2017/2018, according to data from the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
Elsewhere, the growth of the global economy is expected to decelerate to 2.9 percent this year compared with the three percent in 2018, the World Bank said in the report, citing elevated trade tensions and international trade moderation.
A slump in the global economy will continue in the coming year, with 2020 growth estimated at 2.8 percent, according to the report.
“Risks to the regional outlook are tilted to the downside. On the external front, slower-than projected growth in China and Euro Area, which have strong trade and investment links with Sub-Saharan Africa, would adversely affect the region through lower export demand and investment,” the World Bank said.
“Moreover, Sub-Saharan African metals producers would likely be among the hardest hit by escalating trade tensions between China and the United States, as metals prices would fall faster than other commodity prices as a result of weakening demand from China.”
Sharp currency declines would make the servicing of foreign currency-denominated debt, already a rising concern in the sub-Saharan African region, more challenging, the Bank said.
Overall, real GDP growth is estimated at 6.6% in 2018, down from 7.1% in 2017. The services sector was the main contributor to GDP (39.3%). Private investment was the main demand-side contributor (63.9%). The external sector stymied economic growth as the current account deficit increased (despite the real depreciation of the Tanzanian shilling), due to a higher volume of imports in 2018 than in 2017. The increase is due largely to increased imports of transport equipment, building and construction materials, industrial raw materials, and petroleum products for large public investment projects, such as the Standard Gauge Railway. The import bill also increased as a result of the rise in the price of key commodities, such as crude oil.
The fiscal deficit increased to an estimated 3.9% of GDP in 2018, due to increased capital spending on infrastructure projects. Public debt increased to an estimated 39.3% of GDP in 2018 from 38.2% in 2017. External debt accounted for about 74.9% of total public debt in 2018. The risk of debt distress remains low because public external debt, at 34.5% of GDP, is mostly concessional.
Monetary policy was more accommodative in 2018 than in 2017. This increased domestic liquidity and reduced lending rates, leading to greater private credit supply. Due to improved food supply, inflation eased to an estimated 3.5% in 2018.
Tailwinds and headwinds
The medium-term outlook is positive, with growth projected at 6.8% in both 2019 and 7.0 in 2020, supported by large infrastructure spending. Headline inflation is projected to marginally increase to 5.2% in 2019 and 5.1% in 2020 due to increased government spending.
But the positive outlook faces several downside risks: growing private sector concerns about economic policy uncertainty and increased domestic arrears that could derail the government’s fiscal consolidation and harm the private sector.
Key economic development challenges include slow progress towards inclusive growth, infrastructure bottlenecks, and vulnerability to climate change. Poverty and income inequality remain high despite high economic growth. Infrastructure bottlenecks are most notable in the transport and energy sectors. Reliance on rain-fed agriculture has exposed farmers to income shocks. And inefficient public enterprises present a fiscal risk. One of the development challenges on the social front is youth unemployment, which increased to 7.3% in 2016, compared with 5.7% in 2012.
Key opportunities include peace and political stability, abundant natural resources, a strategic geographic location, and immense development potential for tourism. The Export Zone Processing Agency established in 2008 to accelerate manufacturing exports and help the country achieve structural transformation has helped attract close to $1 billion in foreign direct investment and revive the manufacturing sector into one of the fastest-growing in Africa.