Recovery continues at a moderate pace
After years of recession (with some exceptions) and a weaker-than-expected recovery due to harvests undermined by unfavourable weather conditions (drought in the second half of 2022, followed by major flooding in the third quarter) and the very high price of agricultural inputs, this recovery, which is nonetheless salutary, should continue in 2024. It will be driven by the cotton sector, where the seed cotton harvest is expected to improve. Once essential to the country's economy, the cotton industry has been gradually abandoned since 2003 in favour of the oil industry. However, given this situation and the difficulties of the 2021-2022 cotton season, the government is more keen than ever to revive the cotton sector, which still harbours great potential (2nd-largest producer of seed cotton in Central Africa, still accounting at present for 6% of exports and 20% of non-oil GDP). Growth will be stimulated by increased cotton production, made possible by the refurbishment of factories, such as the inauguration in February 2023 of the facility at Gounou-Gaya, which houses together ginning and delinting factories, an oil mill and a soap factory. More broadly, agricultural production (millet, maize, groundnuts, rice, sesame, etc.), which accounts for 60% of GDP, will underpin growth, benefiting from more favourable weather conditions (base effect relating to the particularly poor harvests in the 2021-2022 season due to bad weather). The economy will also be boosted by substantial public defence spending in response to the new security risk posed by the armed conflict in Sudan (since April 2023) with which Chad shares a long border. But this conflict is also affecting the economy through the disruption of cross-border trade and the increased caution of private investors, particularly foreign investors. Foreign direct investment, which is mainly concentrated in the oil sector, could see investment momentum wane. The latter had already been dented by the loss of confidence after the nationalisation of ExxonMobil's assets (an oil field and the pipeline to the Cameroonian port of Kribi) previously purchased in December 2022 by the British company Savannah Energy. However, it will continue to be underpinned by world energy prices, which are expected to rise slightly in 2024, thereby boosting oil production and exports. Inflation is expected to ease due to the moderation in food prices (lower global prices and government measures to limit food insecurity after the state of food emergency declared in June 2022).
Public and external accounts boosted by oil
The large budget surplus recorded over the previous two years generated in particular by substantial oil revenues, should persist in 2024. Public revenues will continue to be sustained by rising world oil prices. They will also benefit from measures to improve collection (simplification of tax legislation) coupled with a broadening of the tax base, in line with the programme to which the government commitments to the IMF and which are a pre-condition for payments under the Extended Credit Facility (approved at the end of 2021, for a total of USD 570.75 million over three years, of which USD 224 million has already been paid). The surplus will nonetheless be lower than in 2023, reflecting an increase in defence spending and the maintenance of substantial expenditure to tackle food insecurity.
Despite the increase in oil exports associated with the expected rise in global oil production and prices, the current account deficit will widen slightly. Imports of capital goods and services will be high to support capital investment, which are notably driven by the cotton sector.
Public debt as a share of GDP will continue to fall, following the signing of a debt restructuring agreement in November 2022, which enabled the implementation of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). The agreement with all creditors covers USD 3 billion of external debt, more than a third of which is commercial (almost exclusively owed to Glencore, a British-Swiss mining and commodities trading company). This agreement (obtained with some difficulty due to the varied nature of the creditors), coupled with the ECF payments, will limit the risk of over-indebtedness in 2024. This, coupled with the humanitarian situation facing the country, will also facilitate access to other low-cost external financing or donations, such as the €30 million already donated by the EU since January 2023.
Elections expected in 2024 amid a particularly tense security and humanitarian backdrop
Following the death in April 2021 of President Idriss Déby who was killed by rebel forces, his son Mahamat Déby took office with the consent of the African Union, given the urgent security situation, despite challenges to his legitimacy. In September 2022, the "transitional" President was given broad executive powers by a meeting of co-opted persons such as the new Prime Minister, Saleh Kebzabo. The transition, which can last up to two years (from September 2022) is still ongoing. While 2024 will probably see elections (presidential and legislative) resulting in a cabinet reshuffle, Mahamat Déby may stand as a candidate and retain the Presidency. While no elections have taken place in the country since 2015 (successive postponements owing to the security context and the subsequent death of Idriss Déby), the next elections will take place in a tense context. The army is omnipresent and the repression of opposition is severe (as was the case of the anti-government demonstrations on 20 October 2022, in response to the announcement of the extension of the transition and the eligibility of members of the transition for the next elections, which were violently repressed, resulting in more than 100 deaths and 300 injuries), in addition to the security threat from Sudan, which is high. The conflict in Sudan could also be a source of instability due to the large influx of Sudanese refugees via the introduction of a humanitarian corridor amid a state of food emergency that was declared in Chad in 2022 and a serious humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, although the junta intends not to take sides in the conflict affecting its neighbour, the geographical proximity of the two countries, as well as the proximity of their communities (the President's family is from the Zaghawa ethnic group, which is in the majority in Sudanese Darfur, one of the two main areas of fighting) and their history, has exacerbated fears of increased tensions within the country and a resurgence of the terrorist threat.
Le déficit du compte courant devrait se réduire en 2024, dans le sillage d’exportations dynamiques qui participeront à l’élargissement de l’excédent commercial. Cependant, il sera encore entretenu par une balance des services (principalement de transports) déficitaire (5 % du PIB), et le rapatriement de bénéfice des sociétés étrangères (principalement dans le secteur minier). L’instabilité politique et sécuritaire persistante continuera de limiter les entrées d’IDE et l’aide extérieure.