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News > World

Commodity Markets In Africa To Remain Volatile Amid COVID-19

  • People trade coffee in an African market, 2021.

    People trade coffee in an African market, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @BNCommodities

Published 7 October 2021

UNECA recommended that African countries adopt comprehensive policies to reduce their heavy dependence on world commodity markets.

Commodity markets in Africa are expected to remain volatile in the coming months following the persistence of COVID-19 constraints in the supply chain and other global economic pressures, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) warned.


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This came during the UNECA's Price Watch session with African finance ministers, Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, told African finance ministers that their economies remain largely dependent on the exports of commodities. Although the commodity sector in most African economies is a significant source of national revenues, high dependence on the sector means high vulnerability to the vagaries of international markets and volatile prices passed on to local markets.

"High commodity dependence is associated with lower human development indicators across the developing world," said Karingi, adding that limited diversification and reliance on commodities sectors are detrimental to long-term development in resource-rich countries.

The ECA director noted that the commodities markets in Africa reacted strongly to COVID-19 in early 2020, owing to restrictions, economic slowdown and uncertain outlook. From mid-2020, significant rebound in commodities prices were above their pre COVID-19 levels with short term volatilities partly supported by expansive macroeconomic policies.

On the commodity markets outlook, the upside risk factors for the continent are said to be gradual recovery partly driven by successful vaccines campaigns and control of COVID-19 outbreaks; dynamic construction and infrastructure sectors worldwide to support markets of some commodities; high production costs to put upward pressure on food costs; and low carbon energy and electric vehicles to sustain markets for products such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.

The downside risk factors were said to be the gloomy economic prospects, especially in industrialized economies if the new COVID-19 variant is not controlled, as well as slower growth in major commodity importing countries. The potential impacts of recent surge in commodities prices will see commodity exporters record increases in economic outputs and fiscal revenues; price volatility to result in macroeconomic instability, trade balances, investment flows; and potential negative weight of high prices on net commodities importers, especially with regards to food and energy commodities.

The UNECA director recommended countries should have an overhaul policy to reduce strong dependence on global commodity markets. African countries have been also urged to promote economic and fiscal diversification, including through the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics at the ECA, stressed that while the macroeconomic effects are well known, the trends of commodity prices and their influence on the revenue of African countries require delving into deeper analysis to have a good grasp of the situation.

Over the last twenty months, COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of African economies to global shocks and high dependence to remote world markets. The situation had led to disruptions in supply chains and slowdown in economic activities worldwide, which to some extent have affected the price of several commodities since the outbreak, he said.

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