Real GDP growth in the countries of West Africa was 5.4 per cent in 2008, as it was in 2007, and is projected to slow by more than one percentage point to 4.2 per cent in 2009, before strengthening to 4.6 per cent in 2010. In the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), consisting of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, economic performance improved in five of the eight countries, but slipped back a bit in Niger and Senegal. In Togo, however, GDP growth in 2008 was estimated to have been barely positive, at 0.8 per cent, continuing the pattern of declining growth in per capita income over the past several years, which was worsened by severe flooding in June 2008. Among the factors for the improved growth in most of these countries was the consolidation of political stability in Côte d’Ivoire – the largest economy within WAEMU – which had GDP growth of 2.3 per cent, about one-half percentage point higher than in 2007. Growth slipped back to 3.7 per cent in Senegal, primarily because of weakness in the output of cereals and groundnuts, as well as in industrial output, especially of phosphates and fertiliser. Cotton production increased, especially in Burkina Faso where it reached record levels in 2008. The major positive development in the WAEMU was the sustained growth in agricultural production in several of them. Mali benefited from high gold prices and reasonably strong growth in food production, and Niger from uranium prices. GDP growth in Mali was 3.6 per cent, up from 3.2 per cent in 2007; in Niger, it was 4.8 per cent, rather less than the 5.7 per cent registered in 2007.
Within the eight non-WAEMU members (Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and São Tomé and Principe), Nigeria – by far the largest economy in West Africa – had GDP growth of 6.1 per cent in 2008, about the same as in 2007, despite reduced oil output of 8 per cent caused by disrupted oil production in the Niger Delta. Projections for 2009 indicate a slowdown of Nigeria’s growth rate to 4 per cent, mainly due to the binding constraint of the OPEC quota on oil production and the slowing down of growth in investment. Cape Verde’s growth performance remained strong in 2008 (6.1 per cent), compared to 6.9 per cent in 2007. In Liberia post-conflict spending on infrastructure and the recovery of agricultural production were responsible for exceptionally strong growth of about 7.3 per cent for the third year in a row, while in Ghana and Sierra Leone growth in 2008 was 6.4 per cent and 5.4 per cent, respectively, on the basis of good performance in cocoa production and processing, and strong increases in food production. Forecasts for 2009 are mixed, but, in addition to Nigeria which was mentioned above, most other countries are also expected to exhibit slower growth due mainly to slower growth in public and private investment associated with lower commodity prices and remittances. Unlike other countries in this group, Liberia and Sierra Leone are expected to continue to enjoy high growth levels as output recovers after years of conflict.