IMF, World Bank hold first meetings in Africa in 50 years
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are convening in Morocco for their first annual meetings on African soil in 50 years. This significant gathering is taking place under mounting pressure for these institutions to undergo reforms that would better support impoverished nations grappling with issues such as debt burdens and the impact of climate change.
Traditionally, they host their annual meetings outside the Washington, D.C., headquarters every three years. Marrakesh, located in southern Morocco, was initially chosen as the host city for the 2021 meeting but had to postpone twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a recent powerful earthquake that caused substantial devastation in the region raised concerns about hosting the event. Nevertheless, the Moroccan government decided to proceed.
The last time these meetings were held in Africa was in 1973 when Kenya hosted the event, and several nations were still under colonial rule. Today, Africa faces a complex array of challenges, including conflicts, military coups, persistent poverty, and natural disasters, making these meetings especially pertinent.
The Marrakech meetings come at a critical juncture when the burden of debt continues to heavily impact Sub-Saharan African economies. An IMF report from June 2023 says 21 countries in the region are categorized as being at high risk of external debt distress or already in debt distress. The Fund, responsible for stabilizing the global monetary system and monitoring world currencies, has underscored that Africa is more vulnerable to the adverse effects of global shocks, such as the Ukraine conflict and climate change than any other region worldwide. The World Bank's October 'Africa Pulse' also warned that Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a "lost decade" characterized by sluggish economic growth. The Bank projects a deceleration in growth for the region, with an expected slowdown to 2.5% in 2023 from 3.6% in 2022. These challenges make the discussions at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Marrakech especially crucial for the region's economic future.