For decades commodity prices have shaped Africa’s economic growth. The continent is home to a third of the planet’s mineral reserves, a tenth of the oil and it produces two-thirds of the diamonds. Little wonder then that, as a rule, when prices for natural resources and export crops have been high, growth has been good; when they have dipped, so has the continent’s economy (see chart 1).
Over the past decade Africa was among the world’s fastest-growing continents—its average annual rate was more than 5%—buoyed in part by improved governance and economic reforms. Commodity prices were also high. In previous cycles African economies have crashed when the prices of minerals, oil and other commodities have fallen. In 1998-99, during an oil-price fall, Nigeria’s naira lost 80% of its value. African currencies again took a beating during a period of turmoil in commodity markets in 2009.