The Economic Commission for Africa on Wednesday urges African countries to adopt policy measures that encourage green investments aimed at increasing productivity to facilitate a sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis and achieve sustainable industrialization.
This is what Hopestone Kayiska Chavula, acting as the Section of Macroeconomic Analysis, Division of Macroeconomics and Governance, ECA, said at the start of the 39th meeting of the Committee of Experts of the ECA. ECA, of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Mr Chavula, in his report focusing on recent economic and social developments in Africa, argues that countries must also support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and strengthen social protection systems to revitalize livelihoods.
“Strengthening health systems, including through the creation of state-of-the-art regional health centers, is also essential,” he said, adding that countries must also rely on and strengthen monitoring systems and assessment and existing statistical systems to continuously assess and refine mitigation and recovery measures.
“Support from the international community is needed to address liquidity constraints and promote recovery,” said Chavula. This can be done through new issuance and reallocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), lower cost of credit, orderly debt restructuring, and recapitalization of multilateral development banks (MDBs). He says COVID-19 has significantly affected the progress of social and economic development on the continent.
“Much of the progress made in recent years in education, health and poverty eradication has been halted or reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that the ECA believes that between 49 and 161 million people will fall into deep poverty as a result of the crisis.
Africa’s GDP is estimated to have contracted in 2020 despite a recovery in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but the outlook for 2021 is positive. Budget deficits have widened due to increased public spending aimed at stemming the spread of the pandemic, and many other African countries are at risk of debt distress as a result.
Accommodative monetary policies have been maintained to cushion the negative effects of the pandemic on economic activity despite inflationary pressures in some countries, says Chavula. African trade has declined but will increase with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“Access to concessional finance will be essential to restore lives and livelihoods and regain momentum towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aspirations of Agenda 2063,” said Mr. Chavula. Real GDP growth has remained subdued on the continent, mainly due to downside risks associated with the second wave of infections, falling commodity prices and significant fiscal risks as well as conflicts in some countries. .
The year 2021 promises to be positive, says Chavula, due to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the improvement in economic activity in the 4th quarter of 2020, spending for holidays and expenses for trip. On the risks and uncertainties, he says the second wave of infections, expansionary fiscal measures and rising debt levels pose downside risks to the growth of many African countries. Post-election instability and social unrest, which may in part stem from economic hardships linked to the pandemic and long lockdowns, have created uncertainties in some countries.
Risks from climate change, especially as many countries are at high risk of extreme weather events, could also hurt economic growth, Chavula said. On the other hand, the pandemic has created an opportunity for climate-resilient green growth as an opportunity to spur recovery. The theme of this year’s Conference of Ministers is Sustainable Industrialization and Diversification of Africa in the Digital Age in the Context of COVID-19.
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