Tens of millions of people in Africa could become destitute as a result of COVID-19 and its catastrophic impact on fragile economies and health systems across the continent, human rights chiefs from the United Nations and the African Commission warned on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Solomon Dersso, issued a joint call for urgent measures to mitigate the ripple effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable.
“We cannot afford to stand idly by and hope this most viral and deadly of diseases bypasses Africa, which is home to many of the world’s poorest countries who are simply not in position to handle such a pandemic”, Bachelet and Dersso said.
Cases in every country
As of 19 May, COVID-19 had reached all 54 African States, infecting 88,172 people – 16,433 of them in South Africa, which recorded the highest number of cases. The continent had lost a total 2,834 people to the virus.
Poverty, lack of social protection, limited access to water, poor sanitation infrastructure, pre-existing disease burden, conflict and overstretched health systems, have created heightened risk for spreading the disease.
Ms. Bachelet and Mr. Dersso called for equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, urging creditors of African countries to freeze, restructure or relieve debt.
“This health crisis – along with the debt burden of the continent and its already fragile economies – threaten to further drain reserves, cripple nascent job creation schemes and annihilate gains made in social development,” they said.
Potential poverty explosion
Such losses could “throw millions more people into want and poverty,” they said, pointing out that the costs of water and basic commodities have already spiked in many countries. People are facing hunger due to disrupted access to food and cooking fuel. Recession in the region now looms large for the first time in more than 25 years.
“It is a matter of human rights necessity that there must be international solidarity with the people of Africa and African Governments,” they said. Priority investments are needed in health, water and sanitation, social protection, employment and sustainable infrastructure.
Acknowledging the economic pain
The pair said that while measures to restrict movement and increase physical distancing were essential in the fight against the virus, they are now having a dramatic impact, in particular, on those who rely on informal daily work for their survival.
In addition, the human rights experts underlined the importance of preserving freedom of association, opinion and expression, as well as access to information during this critical time. They called on Governments and businesses operating in Africa to consider making Internet tariffs more affordable so that information can reach broader audiences.
Learning from Ebola, malaria
More broadly, the rights chiefs said Africa has learned from its experiences with Ebola and malaria about the need to take swift action in countering disease spread. They reminded African Governments that it is a legal imperative – and a pre-requisite for success – that they protect the most vulnerable and stamp out any violations that emerge during the pandemic, including discrimination in all its forms, violence against women, food insecurity, excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings.
Mozambique: Growth Expected to Rebound by 2022
Mozambique’s economy is expected to gradually recover from 2021 but substantial downside risks remain due to uncertainty surrounding the path of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. While the economy registered its first contraction in 2020 in nearly three decades, growth is expected to rebound over the medium-term, reaching about 4 percent by 2022.
Released today, the 6th edition of the World Bank Mozambique Economic Update: Setting the Stage for Recovery, notes that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has hit Mozambique’s economy as it was recovering from the debt crisis and the tropical cyclones of 2019. The country’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have declined by 1.3 percent in 2020, compared to a pre-COVID-19 estimate of 4.3 percent, as aggregate demand fell and lockdown measures necessary to contain the virus disrupted supply chains. Nevertheless, the report notes, job losses and business closure, while significant, were comparatively lower than in peer countries.
“Despite concerted efforts to contain its spread and mitigate its effects, COVID-19 continues to adversely affect households and businesses, delaying the country’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” noted Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros. “The urban poor, who are largely engaged in the informal sector are among the hardest hit. While the impact is significant across the board, small firms are worst affected, notably those in the northern region.”
The report acknowledges that the government took swift sanitary measures, deemed largely successful in keeping cases and deaths on the lower side during the first wave. Furthermore, the authorities enacted robust fiscal and monetary policies aimed at protecting businesses and the most vulnerable. Among those, the Bank of Mozambique enacted stimulus measures, including cutting the monetary policy rate and adopting policies aimed at ensuring financial sector stability. Other crucial support included discounted credit lines to relieve firms of financial distress. Steps were also taken by commercial banks to restructure existing loans by extending maturities and offering grace periods on loan principals. Several other fiscal measures were taken to support small firms and businesses. The report calls for strengthening of these measures to address the effects of the second wave of the virus and support a resilient economic recovery.
“Indeed, continued support to households and viable businesses remains essential for resilient recovery,” noted Fiseha Haile, World Bank Senior Economist and the report’s leading author, adding that it will be key to continue providing support to the poorest and most vulnerable through social protection programs in the short-term. “More support to firms, conditioned on the protection of jobs, could help minimizing layoffs and the loss of productive capacity,” he said.
The report concludes by underlining the need to press ahead with the structural reform agenda as the pandemic subsides. In the recovery phase, policies focusing on supporting economic transformation and job creation, especially for the youth, would be critical. Targeted interventions to support women and alleviate gender inequalities as well as to harness the power of mobile technology would support sustainable and inclusive growth in the medium term.
EU to support COVID-19 vaccination strategies and capacity in Africa
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced today €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa, which are spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Subject to the agreement of the budgetary authority, this funding will support the vaccination campaigns in countries with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. The funding will, among others, contribute to ensuring the cold chains, roll-out registration programmes, training of medical and support staff as well as logistics. This sum comes on top of €2.2 billion provided by Team Europe to COVAX.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “We’ve always been clear that the pandemic won’t end until everyone is protected globally. The EU stands ready to support the vaccination strategies in our African partners with experts and deliveries of medical supplies at the request of the African Union. We are also exploring potential support to boost local production capacities of vaccines under licensing arrangements in Africa. This would be the fastest way to ramp up production everywhere to the benefit of those that most need it.”
Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: “International vaccine solidarity is a must if we are to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic. We are looking at ways to use our humanitarian aid and civil protection tools to help in the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa. Ensuring equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable people, including in hard-to-access areas, is a moral duty. We will build on our valuable experience in delivering humanitarian aid in a challenging environment, for example via the Humanitarian Air Bridge flights.”
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, added: “Team Europe has stood by the side of our African partners from the onset of the pandemic and will continue to do so. We have already mobilised more than €8 billion to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. We are strengthening health systems and preparedness capacities, which is absolutely key to ensure effective vaccination campaigns. And we are now exploring support through the new NDICI and how to leverage investments in the local production capacities through the External Action Guarantee.”
The EU also has a range of instruments at its disposal, such as the EU Humanitarian Air bridge, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, and the EU’s humanitarian budget. These tools have been used extensively in the context of COVID-19 to deliver crucial material and logistical assistance to partners in Africa.
The Commission is also currently exploring opportunities to support African countries in the medium term to establish local or regional production capacity of health products, in particular vaccines and protective equipment. This support will come under the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+).
The EU has been scaling up its humanitarian engagement in Africa since the onset COVID-19 crisis. A key of part of these efforts is the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, which is an integrated set of services enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The air bridge carries medical equipment, and humanitarian cargo and staff, providing humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable populations where the pandemic imposes constraints on transport and logistics. The air bridge flights are fully funded by the EU. So far, almost 70 flights have delivered over 1,150 tons of medical equipment as well as nearly 1,700 medical and humanitarian staff and other passengers. Flights to Africa have aided the African Union, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan.
20th International Economic Forum on Africa
The global economic recession triggered by COVID-19 is hitting African countries hard. In 2020, 41 African economies experienced a decline in their gross domestic product (GDP). Although situations vary across the continent, this crisis has made clear that post-COVID strategies need to tackle two major obstacles to Africa’s long-term sustainable growth: dependence on external markets, and the incapacity of the formal economic sectors to create enough quality jobs.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), now open for business, provides a platform to accelerate productive transformation, create regional value chains and spur continental integration. Its effective implementation, however, depends on African economies’ capacity to create fiscal space and boost private investment in quality infrastructure and sustainable projects.
What are the key priorities for implementing the AfCFTA and accelerating Africa’s productive transformation? How can African governments strengthen their borrowing capacity and improve their debt management? How can bilateral and multilateral co-operation facilitate the process? The 2021 edition of the Forum will gather all key actors to share their views and solutions for action.
The Forum hosts Europe’s largest annual conversation on Africa’s ongoing, formidable transformation. It invites African and OECD policy makers, investors, academics, civil society and international organisations to share their views, and discuss how better policies can improve development outcomes for Africans and the world.
To host the Forum, the Government of Senegal, is teaming up with the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; and the African Union, along with partners Casa Africa, le Cercle des Economistes, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC).
The debates will build on the findings of the recently launched Africa’s Development Dynamics 2021, a report by the African Union Commission, produced in collaboration with the OECD Development Centre.
Honourable speakers include:
- Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal
- Andry Rajoelina, President of the Republic of Madagascar
- Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
- Moussa Faki Mahamat, President, African Union Commission
- Ibrahim A. Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, African Union Development Agency (AUDA/NEPAD)
- Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia
- Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, AfCFTA Secretariat
- Jean Hervé Lorenzi, President, Cercle des Economistes
- Rémy Rioux, Director-General, Agence Française de Développement
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