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Brandon Buell, Reda Cherif, Carissa Chen, Jiawen Tang, and Nils Wendt
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need for detailed, timely information on its evolving economic impacts, particularly for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where data availability and lack of generalizable nowcasting methodologies limit efforts for coordinated policy responses. This paper presents a suite of high frequency and granular country-level indicator tools that can be used to nowcast GDP and track changes in economic activity for countries in SSA. We make two main contributions: (1) demonstration of the predictive power of alternative data variables such as Google search trends and mobile payments, and (2) implementation of two types of modelling methodologies, machine learning and parametric factor models, that have flexibility to incorporate mixed-frequency data variables. We present nowcast results for 2019Q4 and 2020Q1 GDP for Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Ghana, and argue that our factor model methodology can be generalized to nowcast and forecast GDP for other SSA countries with limited data availability and shorter timeframes.
Ms. Grace B Li, Mr. Stephen A. O'Connell, Mr. Christopher S Adam, Mr. Andrew Berg, and Mr. Peter J Montiel
VAR methods suggest that the monetary transmission mechanism may be weak and unreliable in low-income countries (LICs). But are structural VARs identified via short-run restrictions capable of detecting a transmission mechanism when one exists, under research conditions typical of these countries? Using small DSGEs as data-generating processes, we assess the impact on VAR-based inference of short data samples, measurement error, high-frequency supply shocks, and other features of the LIC environment. The impact of these features on finite-sample bias appears to be relatively modest when identification is valid—a strong caveat, especially in LICs. However, many of these features undermine the precision of estimated impulse responses to monetary policy shocks, and cumulatively they suggest that “insignificant” results can be expected even when the underlying transmission mechanism is strong.
Mr. Rabah Arezki and Markus Bruckner
We examine the effects that variations in the international food prices have on democracy and intra-state conflict using panel data for over 120 countries during the period 1970-2007. Our main finding is that in Low Income Countries increases in the international food prices lead to a significant deterioration of democratic institutions and a significant increase in the incidence of anti-government demonstrations, riots, and civil conflict. In the High Income Countries variations in the international food prices have no significant effects on democratic institutions and measures of intra-state conflict. Our empirical results point to a significant externality of variations in international food prices on Low Income Countries' social and political stability.
Mr. Shanaka J Peiris and Régis Barnichon
This paper explores the sources of inflation in Sub-Saharan Africa by examining the relationship between inflation, the output gap, and the real money gap. Using heterogeneous panel cointegration estimation techniques, we estimate cointegrating vectors for the production function and the real money demand function to recover the structural output and money gaps for seventeen African countries. The central finding is that both gaps contain significant information regarding the evolution of inflation, albeit with a larger role played by the money gap. There is no significant evidence of asymmetry in the relationship.
Ms. Natalia T. Tamirisa and Mr. Arvind Subramanian
The popular impression that Africa has not integrated into world trade, as suggested by the evolution in simple indicators, has been called into question recently by more formal analysis. This paper refines and generalizes this analysis, but lends support to the popular view of disintegration. Africa, especially Francophone Africa, is currently under-exploiting its trading opportunities and has witnessed disintegration over time, a trend that is most pronounced in its trade with the technologically advanced countries.