Without adequate protection, over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives to Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to the continent’s struggling economies, a report by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has warned.
The report, which will be launched virtually on Friday, is titled, COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies. It says Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them.
To date, over 17,000 people in Africa have been infected and nearly 1000 lives have been lost to the pandemic.
According to the report, the economic growth rate of the continent 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.
In statement, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe, said $100 billion is needed to help counties address their needs.
“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,” she said
The report said 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 added
According to the report Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support.
Also, oil price which accounts for 40 percent of Africa’s exports has halved in value, while major African exports, such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed.
Meanwhile, tourism, which adds 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; and that the response to the crisis “must bring us together as one.”
On mitigation, it 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 said the private sector needs liquidity, as well as partners.
“That is why we call on the international community to support by injecting more liquidity into our economies,” she added.
She stressed the need for never-before-seen assistance through innovative financing facilities.
“We must build back better, by ensuring that we are climate conscious in rebuilding and by leveraging the digital economy,” .
She said women are the front end and the back end of this crisis, as they serve as nurses and run many of the small businesses.
“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 business from collapse, and reduce worker lay-offs,” Ms Songwe said.
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