LILONGWE (Reuters) – Malawi’s economy is likely to expand by 4.5% this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said late on Tuesday, boosted by improved agricultural production and the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by Cyclone Idai.

The growth projection is down slightly from the fund’s March forecast of a 5% expansion to gross domestic product. Earlier in September the finance ministry said growth would advance 5%, up from 4% growth in 2018.

The small southern African nation’s economy is largely reliant on sales of tobacco, tea and sugarcane, with growth having slowed in recent years because of an El Nino-induced drought, electricity shortages and political uncertainty.

Cyclone Idai, the worst cyclone in Africa for decades, lashed Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March, killing thousands and wrecking infrastructure.

“Over the medium term, growth could rise further to 6-7%, backed by greater access to finance, crop diversification, an improved business climate and more resilient infrastructure, including improved electricity generation,” the IMF said in a statement.

In April last year the IMF granted Malawi a $112 million credit facility to help the country to stabilise debt and fight poverty.

Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by David Goodman