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Public Debt Sustainability in Africa: Building Resilience and Challenges Ahead


  • Mthuli Ncube
  • Zuzana Brixiov??



The heightened interest of African countries to access international capital markets has put public debt sustainability once again high on the continent???s policy agenda. Applying the ???stabilizing primary balance approach??? to sustainability shows that the primary balances exceeded those required to keep public debt at the 2007 level in about half of the countries studied. In several cases with higher debt burdens, the balances were also above those needed to reduce public debt-to-GDP to sustainable thresholds. However, in most countries the main driver of sustainability has been the interest rate ??? growth differential (IRGD), underscoring the importance of maintaining and even accelerating growth as well as utilizing the borrowing space for growth-enhancing outlays. Fiscal policies will need to play a greater role in maintaining debt sustainability in the future, especially since the IRGDs are likely to narrow over the longer term.

Suggested Citation

  • Mthuli Ncube & Zuzana Brixiov??, 2013. "Public Debt Sustainability in Africa: Building Resilience and Challenges Ahead," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp1053, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2013-1053

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas Herndon & Michael Ash & Robert Pollin, 2014. "Does high public debt consistently stifle economic growth? A critique of Reinhart and Rogoff," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 257-279.
    2. Balázs Égert, 2015. "Public debt, economic growth and nonlinear effects: Myth or reality?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 226-238.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 573-578, May.
    4. Olivier Jean Blanchard, 1990. "Suggestions for a New Set of Fiscal Indicators," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 79, OECD Publishing.
    5. Kasekende Louis & Brixova Zuzana & Ndikumana Leonce, 2010. "Africa: Africa's Counter-Cyclical Policy Responses to the Crisis," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-22, January.
    6. Haizhou Huang & Danyang Xie, 2008. "Fiscal Sustainability and Fiscal Soundness," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 9(2), pages 239-251, November.
    7. Luc Eyraud & Anke Weber, 2013. "The Challenge of Debt Reduction during Fiscal Consolidation," IMF Working Papers 13/67, International Monetary Fund.
    8. Yibin Mu, 2012. "Striking an Appropriate Balance Among Public Investment, Growth, and Debt Sustainability in Cape Verde," IMF Working Papers 12/280, International Monetary Fund.
    9. Charles Wyplosz, 2007. "Debt Sustainability Assessment: The IMF Approach and Alternatives," IHEID Working Papers 03-2007, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    10. Silvio Contessi, 2012. "An application of conventional sovereign debt sustainability analysis to the current debt crises," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 197-220.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mthuli Ncube & Zuzana Brixiova, 2013. "Working Paper 188 - Remittances and their Macroeconomic Impact: Evidence from Africa," Working Paper Series 996, African Development Bank.
    2. António Afonso, & Emanuel Reis Leão, & Dilson Tiny, & Diptes C. P. Bhimjee, 2017. "Fiscal Sustainability Analysis: The Case of PALOP Economies," Working Papers Department of Economics 2017/14, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    3. Ulrich Volz & Dafe Florence & Dennis Essers, 2017. "Localising Sovereign Debt: The Rise of Local Currency Bond Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 202, Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London, UK.
    4. repec:agr:journl:v:4(605):y:2015:i:4(605):p:189-198 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Walid BENAYED & Foued Badr GABSI & Samia OMRANE BELGUITH, 2015. "Threshold Effect of Public Debt on Domestic Investment: Evidence from Selected African Countries," Theoretical and Applied Economics, Asociatia Generala a Economistilor din Romania - AGER, vol. 0(4(605), W), pages 189-198, Winter.
    6. Remme, Michelle & Siapka, Mariana & Sterck, Olivier & Ncube, Mthuli & Watts, Charlotte & Vassall, Anna, 2016. "Financing the HIV response in sub-Saharan Africa from domestic sources: Moving beyond a normative approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 66-76.

    More about this item


    public debt; sovereign bonds; interest-growth differential; primary balance; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • O23 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Development

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