The World Bank has announced that sub-Saharan African economies will contract by 3.5% in 2020 owing to the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic could also reverse recent economic gains and push 40 million people in the continent into extreme poverty.

This marks the region’s first economic recession in 25 years.

According to the World Bank, economic growth in the region will recover in 2021, with economies growing by 2.1%, below 2019’s growth of 2.4%.

In a statement, the bank said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a large toll on economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa, putting a decade of hard-won economic progress at risk.”

Most African countries bar South Africa have been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. The region accounts only for 3.4% of infections world wide and 2.5% of deaths, however, many analysts say lack of proper data collection mechanisms mean that the numbers are vastly under reported.

The World Bank has warned of potential risks emanating from the virus.

“Great uncertainty surrounds the scale and trajectory of the pandemic in the region,” it said, citing the experience of European nations and the United States, which are going through a second wave of infections.

The World Bank also said that the coronavirus pandemic is set to regress the economic output per person to 2007 levels by the end of 2021 and disrupt learning for 235 million students.

This year’s economic growth is expected to be hit by the lockdowns put in place by governments to curb the spread of the virus, and the impact of the global slowdown.

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