Inflation continues to pose a significant threat to the economic stability of African nations, as rising consumer prices shrink the purchasing power of households. Despite previous improvements reported by Mariblock, March inflation data shows that 50% of African countries recorded a rise in consumer prices, unlike the previous month when 90% of countries with available figures indicated easing consumer prices.
Policymakers across the continent scramble to implement measures to combat the spiraling inflation, including introducing gold-backed digital tokens and hiking interest rates.
Here’s Mariblock’s March 2023 inflation trend table:
Behind the numbers
- Inflation in Zimbabwe fell for the 8th consecutive month — 87.6% in March vs. 92.3% in February. The figure has been dropping since August, when the African country hit the bizarrely high 285% consumer price escalation.
- According to a Zimbabwean economist, Namatai Maeresera, measures taken by the government have been effective and should be commended.
What was said:
“The country has been on a monetary policy tightening stance, and these are the benefits of such activities; the gold coins, high-interest rates, and Government payment stance have led us to this point, and all should be commended,” he said.
- Of note: The Zimbabwean Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) adopted a blended approach in February to measure inflation in the country.
- The new system allows ZIMSTAT to use both the U.S. dollar (USD) and the Zimdollar (ZWL) prices of goods to measure inflation — instead of the previous model based on the Zimdollar alone.
- Why it matters: The blended inflation system was adopted after a household survey by ZIMSTAT in January found that 76.56% of spending in Zimbabwe was in USD, with just 23.44% in ZWL.
- Therefore it is unclear how much of the declining inflation is attributable to the blended inflation system vs. actual price stabilization.
- Meanwhile: the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has cut its interest rate twice this year due to the improving situation.
- The RBZ also announced plans to introduce a digital currency backed by gold as part of its efforts to stabilize the local currency.
- According to the Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana’s consumer price index situation improved in March — 45% vs. 52.8% in February. Food inflation fell to 50.8% from 59.1% in February and is likely to drop further due to a stronger currency.
- The Bank of Ghana raised its interest rates to 29.5% despite the two consecutive months of slowing inflation.
- On the other hand, the Ghanaian cedi has strengthened by almost 13% against the U.S. dollar (USD), months after the currency was adjudged the worst performing in Africa.
- The improvement has been attributed to factors such as the reduced demand for foreign currency, the launch of a new program to buy refined fuel using gold revenue and a decision by the government to stop payments on Eurobond in December.
- Ghana also expects the approval of the $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, having met most of the conditions laid out by the global lender.
- Inflation in Egypt climbed to 32.7% in March from 31.9% in February. The core inflation rate, which excludes fuel and some volatile food items, fell back to 39.5% after jumping to a record 40.26% in February.
- Behind the increase in food prices are factors such as the Ramadan-driven seasonal demand, currency devaluation and the effect of raw materials shortage.
- The North African country has seen rising inflation since 2022 — due to currency devaluation, foreign exchange shortage and import constriction.
- The IMF had demanded a currency devaluation before granting the $3 billion loan Egypt requested.
- Nigeria’s inflation rose to 22.4% in March from 21.91% in February, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The bureau attributed the increase to the higher food prices, housing, fuel, and gas.
- The Nigerian economy has been grappling due to dwindling oil prices, a significant revenue source for the West African country.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has implemented some monetary policies to tame the rising inflation. Some measures include reducing the interest rate and redesigning the three largest naira banknotes to mop up excess cash from the economy.
- Kenya’s inflation rate in March remained stagnant at 9.2%, unchanged from February and higher than the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) forecasted 7.5%.
- However, prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages climbed to 13.4% from 13.3% the previous month.
- The CBK, in a bid to rein in inflation, raised its lending rate for the fourth time in the last six monetary policy meetings to 9.5%.
- South Africa’s inflation rose slightly to 7.1% in March, from 7% the prior month, surpassing market expectations of 6.9% and the central bank’s target of 3%-6%.
- The country has been dealing with bouts of power cuts (load shedding), and experts suggest this is one of the reasons for the price pressures.
What they’re saying
“The rise... may be a sign that the intensification of load shedding (power cuts) in recent months is fueling price pressures,” Capital Economics said in a research note.
- The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) raised interest rates to 7.75% from 7.25%, its highest level in 14 years. SARB noted that further adjustment of the lending rate would depend on how close the country’s CPI gets to its target of 4.5%.