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The African Development Bank (AfDB) has sounded the alarm, cautioning that soaring prices of goods and fuel could ignite social turmoil, particularly due to opposition against government policies such as subsidy removal.

In its latest report on macroeconomic performance and outlook for 2024, the bank projects a promising economic growth trajectory for the continent, surpassing the 3.2% recorded in the previous year.

Highlighting potential triggers for unrest, the AfDB points to escalating geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, along with the looming threat of the El Nino phenomenon, which could disrupt supply chains and exacerbate energy and food inflation worldwide. Africa, with its susceptibility to such shocks, is especially vulnerable.

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The report underscores the economic toll of regional conflicts and political instability, which divert resources away from development efforts toward security and defense expenditures. It warns of the dire consequences of unconstitutional changes in government leadership, which could lead to sanctions and further economic hardship.

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Moreover, the AfDB highlights the role of internal factors in fueling conflicts, such as currency depreciation and subsidy removals. In countries like Nigeria, Angola, Kenya, and Ethiopia, the removal of energy subsidies has sparked social unrest, driven by opposition to government policies.

“Rising prices for fuel and other commodities due to weaker domestic currencies and reforms could lead to internal conflicts and violence,” the report states, citing examples of social unrest following subsidy removals in several African nations.

The warning comes amid a stark reality in Nigeria, where the cost of living crisis has reached alarming levels. With inflation rates soaring to 29.90% as of January 2024, Nigerians are grappling with skyrocketing prices of food and fuel, leading to widespread protests across the country.

Transportation and cooking gas prices have hit record highs, while the cost of rice, a staple food in Nigeria, has far exceeded earlier projections. The removal of fuel subsidies last year, coupled with government inaction to mitigate the economic impact on the masses, has further exacerbated the situation.

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Organized labor unions, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), have been vocal in their opposition, staging protests to demand relief from the economic hardships faced by the populace. With another two-day protest already planned, the voices of discontent are growing louder, underscoring the urgent need for government action to address the mounting crisis.

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