Ghana economy expected to grow by 13.5% this year

Ghana’s economy will grow by a continent-leading 13.5% this year thanks to the onset of oil revenues, but the fiscal deficit may exceed the government’s projections, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

Ghana, already a large gold and cocoa producer, started pumping oil from its offshore Jubilee field in December 2010, making it the latest country to join the club of African crude exporters.

A poll of ten economists put Ghana’s GDP growth at a median 13.5% in 2011, easing to 8% in 2012. This compares to the government’s revised projection of 14.4% for 2011 and the International Monetary Fund’s 13.4%.

The growth forecasts ranged from a low of 11.5% to 16.7% high, according to the survey.

The rapid pace of growth will be largely commodities-fed, with oil output expected to reach 120,000 barrels per day this month, cocoa production seen hitting a record 1 million tonnes, and gold sales also on the rise.

“We see real GDP growth leaping to 14%, up from 7.7% in 2010, driven primarily by the onset of oil exports, but also supported by buoyant foreign investment and a broadly stable macroeconomic environment,” said economist Lisa Lewin of Business Monitor International.

Analysts added that Ghana is well-poised to defend itself from a slump in global crude oil futures to below $90 a barrel after it hedged its share of 2011 production at $107.

“The hedging of the oil exports will provide protection from a sharp move south in international prices,” said Stephen Bailey-Smith, head of Africa research at Standard Bank.

The poll, meanwhile, pointed to an end-of-year fiscal deficit of 5.7% of GDP, versus the latest government’s forecast of 5.1%, while headline inflation is seen at 9%, in line with the government’s forecast.

Analysts have said recent announcements from Ghana, including a plan to purchase five military jets for $200 million, point to the possibility of fiscal slippage.

Business Monitor’s Lewin projected that headline inflation could creep near double digits due to base effects and demand pull pressures as a result of strong economic growth.

“We concur with the Bank of Ghana in the belief that inflation will remain close to 9% over the short-term. However, we see inflation edging into the double-digits by Q4 2011, in contrast with the central bank’s view of inflation staying close to 9% over the coming 12 months.”

Inflation for 2012 is seen at 9% while fiscal deficit is projected at 4.4% of GDP.

The Statistical Service announced on Wednesday that annualised consumer inflation dropped to 8.39% in June, the lowest since June 1992. But some analysts fear that the rates could soon begin to climb because of increased economic activity, public wage rises, and pressure from crude oil revenues.

Ghana, the world second largest cocoa grower after Ivory Coast and Africa’s number two gold miner after South Africa, leapt into the world ranking of middle-income countries this year with a new measure of its economy that added over 60% to GDP. (Reuters)

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