The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in a new report on the coronavirus pandemic, says over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19. This, as the pandemic continues to impact on the Continent’s struggling economies whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent in a best-case scenario, pushing close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.
The Report, which will be launched virtually on the 17th of April and is titled, COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies says Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them because of the growing crisis that has to-date, resulted in over 16,000 infected Africans and claimed over 800 lives at the time of the report’s launch.
“To protect and build towards the Continent’s shared prosperity, $100 billion is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations,” reiterates Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa.
Africa, notes Ms. Songwe is particularly susceptible because 56 percent of its urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings and only 34 percent of African households have access to basic handwashing facilities.
“The economic costs of the Pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the COVID-19. Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies. The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” she adds.
The Report notes that Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support. Furthermore, the price of oil, which accounts for 40 percent of Africa’s exports has halved in value, and major African exports, such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed. Tourism, which accounts for up to 38 percent of some African countries’ GDP, has effectively halted as has the airline industry that supports it.
On partnerships, the Report underscores that African economies are interconnected; the response to the crisis ‘must bring us together as one’.
On mitigation, the Report outlines a number of concerted efforts to keep trade flowing, especially in essential medical supplies and staple foods, with a strong policy push to fight the urge to impose export bans. It also proposes that intellectual property on medical supplies, novel testing kits and vaccines must be shared to help Africa’s private sector play its role in the response.
Ms. Songwe also notes that the private sector needs liquidity, but it also needs partners. “That is why we call on the international community to support by injecting more liquidity into our economies,” she adds.
She stresses the need for never-before-seen assistance through innovative financing facilities, stating, “We must build back better, by ensuring that we are climate conscious in rebuilding and by leveraging the digital economy.”
“Women are the front end and the back end of this crisis, they are our nurses and run many of the small businesses, underlines Ms. Songwe, adding: “Policies put in place to respond to the crisis must be in collaboration with them; we must be firm and clear on good governance to safeguard our health systems, ensure proper use of emergency funds, prevent our businesses from collapse, and reduce worker lay-offs.”