Most developed nations will experience economic stagnation during the first half of 2002 but, on average, the nations of Africa and the Middle East will experience year-on-year growth approaching 1.5 percent.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently projected that the global economy will remain in the grip of recession through the first two quarters of 2002, and that conditions in the second half would improve a bit to reach 1.4 percent economic expansion for the year. Nevertheless, the Unit projects that growth in nations of the Middle East and North Africa would be 2.4 percent during 2002, with Iraq and Sudan being the biggest gainers. Of course, this assumes that there is no military intervention in either of those nations.

GPD expansion in the region may outpace the global average, yet it is unlikely that the average consumer will experience any real gain. Generally speaking, rapid population growth and a shortage of jobs will undermine consumer confidence and purchasing power. The average consumer in the Middle East and North Africa will experience little gain or loss in terms of expendable household income, at least through the first half of 2002.

EIU data leads to the assumption that the global economic panorama will improve during the third and fourth quarters of 2002. International economic analysts generally agree that global private sector consumption will come back to life after midyear, putting upward pressure on industrial production. Depressed oil sector earnings will continue to plague Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arabs Emirates until at least the second half of 2002. However, by the end of the year, increased economic activity and trade in developed nations will drive up demand for fossil fuels and other exports emanating from nations of Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Sub-Saharan Africa will present a mixed bag of economic performance, with some nations experiencing growth and others decline. According to the IEU report, "Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest growing economy in the world, and also the slowest. Equatorial Guinea's economy would rocket 34 percent, while Zimbabwe would suffer a five percent decline in its GDP. This region as a whole is forecast to grow 3.6 percent in 2002."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) offers a more optimistic projection of economic expansion in Africa and the Middle East, anticipating GDP expansion of 4.4 percent in both regions. The IMF also anticipates that...

To continue reading