In Four African Countries, AfDB Warns Of Social Unrest Amidst High Cost Of Living. But How Serious Is The Warning?

By Ere- Ebi Agedah Imisi

It’s been barely 3 days that in its latest macroeconomic performance and outlook report for 2024, the African Development Bank (AfDB) raised concerns over the escalating prices of fuel and other commodities, noting the potential for social unrest in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and Kenya.

Despite an optimistic projection for Africa’s overall economic growth, with a rebound to 3.8% in 2024 compared to the 3.2% recorded in 2023, the AfDB emphasised the precarious situation in these specific countries.

According to the bank, there is a looming threat of internal conflicts, cautioning that the surge in fuel and commodity prices, driven by currency depreciation or subsidy removal, could act as a catalyst for social unrest.

Ironically, the African continent has been navigating through numerous economic challenges, with the escalation of living costs, hike in prices of food and essential commodity casting a shadow over the lives of millions. Against this backdrop, the AfDB issued a stern caution, foreseeing potential social unrest in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and Kenya due to soaring prices of fuel and essential commodities, these 4 countries emerge as focal points of concern, with the removal of fuel subsidies and currency depreciation amplifying the strain on citizens.

Understanding the Warning
Local adage says a hungry man is an angry man and this appears to be the reality on which AfDB concerns lie on.

The AfDB’s latest macroeconomic performance and outlook report for 2024 underscores a stark reality while Africa’s economic growth is projected to rebound to 3.8%, specific countries face turbulent times. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and Kenya stand at the forefront of this turbulence, grappling with the adverse effects of escalating fuel and commodity prices. The removal of fuel subsidies and currency depreciation emerge as pivotal factors fueling this crisis, triggering packets of social unrest and internal conflicts.
For Kenya’s Government, it says it is taking steps to ease cost of living, adding that it is committed to building the economy by increasing revenue collection, reducing government spending, and ensuring the country is able to repay its debt and live within its means. The government announcement comes days after the African Development Bank report.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Kenyan President William Ruto said his government has done just enough to reduce the economic burden on Kenyans.

“The strategy we have put in place over the last one year has seen the cost of living come down, whether you talk about the cost of food, whether you talk about inflation, and what we have done with the management of the debt situation in the country,” he said.

Also, Ruto blamed the previous government for burdening the country with foreign debt and failing to collect enough revenue to balance the country’s accounts, adding that it has managed to lower food prices, and the economy is improving despite spending much of its revenue repaying loans.

Kenya has also witnessed protests over high food prices, but people continue to express their displeasure with the country’s economic status in public gatherings and on social media networks.

According to Samuel Nyandemo, economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, some Kenyans are losing patience with Ruto’s 18-month-old government.

“Kenyans, their patience is eroding unless some of these issues are addressed with urgency. There will be some animosity whether you like it or not,” Nyandemo said. “You can even see it in political meetings. People are now so courageous they are shouting at the president. What does that show you? It shows you that people are getting disgusted. We better start addressing key issues first and the first thing is reducing the cost of living.”

Unpacking the Catalysts
In Nigeria, the removal of fuel subsidy, initially intended to streamline economic policies, proves to be a double-edged sword as Nigerias have maintained that the decision on subsidy removal was ill timed.
The Fuel subsidy removals in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria, has served as catalysts for social unrest, amplifying the burden on citizens already grappling with economic hardships. The removal of subsidies, intended to streamline economic policies, unintentionally worsens the plight of the common man, leading to widespread discontent and protests. The AfDB’s caution echoes deeply as these nations teeter on the brink of internal strife, propelled by economic uncertainties and government policies.
Within Nigeria, the rising cost of living is triggering widespread discontent and protests across various states. Government policies, including the removal of petrol subsidies and currency floatation, exacerbate the economic plight of ordinary citizens.

The Toll on Nigeria
Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar, lamented the economic hardship in the country, saying Nigerians were frustrated and hungry.

He noted this while speaking at the 6th executive committee meeting of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council (NTRC) which was held in Kaduna state, saying insecurity and poverty were the major issues causing trouble in the Northern part of the country.

“To make matters worse, we are faced with rising levels of poverty of most of our people; a lack of normal sources of livelihood for the common man to have even a good meal a day. But I believe talking about insecurity and the rising level of poverty are two issues that we cannot fold our arms and think everything is okay.

“I have said it so many times and at so many for a that, things are not okay in Nigeria and of course, things are not okay in the north.

“To me, this government is a continuation of the former government; it is the same party. So, what is the problem? I think that is one of the reasons we are here to talk to ourselves.” He said.

The prevailing prices underscore the gravity of the situation, highlighting the palpable anguish and frustration among Nigerians. Media reports indicates that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has announced plans to embark on a nationwide protests in response to the deteriorating living conditions and escalating insecurity.

Global Concerns Amplify Local Struggles
Beyond domestic challenges, global dynamics further compounds the predicament. Escalating geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, coupled with the looming El Niño phenomenon, threaten to disrupt global supply chains. Africa, already vulnerable to external shocks, faces heightened risks of energy and food inflation. The convergence of local and global concerns intensifies the urgency for proactive measures to mitigate the impending crisis.

Implications and the Way Forward
The AfDB warning serves as a clarion call for African leaders to prioritize the welfare of their citizens amidst economic uncertainties. Addressing the root causes of social unrest demands comprehensive strategies encompassing economic reforms, social welfare programs, and transparent governance. Sustainable solutions must prioritize inclusive growth, poverty alleviation, and equitable distribution of resources to foster resilience in the face of adversity.

As Africa stands at a crossroad, the AfDB warning reverberates as a stark reminder of the perils of neglecting socio-economic challenges. The specter of social unrest looms large over Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and Kenya, urging decisive action and prudent governance to avert crisis. In the pursuit of prosperity and stability, African nations must heed the warning signs and embark on a collective journey towards inclusive development and social cohesion, however only time will tell.

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *