July 17, 2020 / 1:52 AM / a month ago

Emerging markets face wave of unrest as lockdowns ease - risk study

LONDON (Reuters) - Dozens of emerging and frontier markets are likely to face mass protests in the coming months as lockdowns imposed to control the coronavirus pandemic ease and the dire economic impact of the virus hits home, according to new research.

Thirty-seven countries are at risk, mostly concentrated in Africa and Latin America, including Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Venezuela and Peru, said global risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft.

Congo and Ethiopia, as well as Belarus, Bulgaria and Serbia in Europe, are among countries to have been shaken by protests in recent days as dissatisfaction with governments boils over.

This follows a drop in unrest in emerging and frontier markets in March, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED), after the widespread introduction of lockdowns.

“The total number of protests in frontier and emerging markets has almost rebounded to pre-pandemic levels,” said Verisk Maplecroft Principal Analyst Miha Hribernik.

“With many countries still in lockdown, and the full economic shock of the outbreak yet to be felt, we expect the number of protests to surge over the next 2-3 months.”

The International Monetary Fund has forecast growth in emerging markets and developing economies will shrink by 1% in 2020.

Verisk Maplecroft said the outlook was particularly concerning for frontier and emerging markets where the post-pandemic economic picture is bleak.

Nigeria, Iran, Bangladesh, Algeria and Ethiopia face a “perfect storm” of grassroots anger as protests driven by the pandemic’s economic fallout aggravate unrest over pre-existing grievances about issues ranging from poverty to food supply, it said.

“Our base case from January - that 2020 will see a surge in protests and that the coming decade is set to be a one of unprecedented unrest - still stands,” said Hribernik. “But in the countries least prepared to bounce back from the pandemic, it now looks like a best-case scenario.”

India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey face risks that are only slightly less acute and still constitute a significant threat to stability, the report added.

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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