According to findings of the 2021 Economic Report for Africa, ERA on Africa released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa released on May 14 in Dakar, Senegal at the ongoing 54 session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Development, the pandemic has taken a great on economies and exacerbated poverty and vulnerability
About 58 million persons in Africa are extremely vulnerable to falling into poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic unless they are supported by cash and food transfers, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA has warned.
Among these persons are those in vulnerable employment and workers of the informal sector. Women, people living with disabilities, refugees and displaced people have suffered the most from the shocks. These are some of the major findings of the 2021 Economic Report on Africa published by UNECA on Saturday.
The report titled ‘Addressing Poverty and Vulnerability in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic’ sounds out warning signals on a number of issues stressing fifteen African countries are at risk of debt distress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hanan Morsy, ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary said the report analyses the implication of COVID-19 in terms of poverty, but brings a new dimension stressing the vulnerability in Africa. It brings the element of people centric analysis of what has been happening during COVID-19 and what we need to do to ensure that the vulnerable population are protected in terms of social safety net and putting up the right policies.
“This report is particularly relevant given to what we have seen as the implications on the continent. The most critical implication of COVID-19 has been the reversal of the very hard-won gains that the continent had managed to achieve in reducing poverty,” said Ms Morsy.
While presenting the key findings of the report, Adrian Gauci, an Economic Affairs Officer at ECA said African countries responded to the poverty effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in part through expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to maintain consumption and aggregate demand and prevent firm closures and job losses.
“A major contribution of the report is the emphasis on the centrality of risk and vulnerability to shocks in the design of poverty reduction strategies in Africa,” said Mr Gauci.
“The report calls for an urgent need to explore innovative and affordable market-led insurance schemes which can insure the poor from future shocks. Collaboration of governments with the private sector is paramount.”
Looking forward to recover better from the pandemic and improving risk management and building resilience, the report proposed a number of policy recommendations to the continent.
Among these recommendation features the adoption of a targeted social protection by African governments which will serve as stabilizers during crises periods.
Added to that is the provision of short-term social assistance to the most vulnerable by putting in place policies and support programmes that will prevent people from falling into permanent poverty. Other social assistance could be tax relief to small businesses, extending the period of short-term lending for small and medium enterprises, subsidising water and electricity bills and imposing rent controls for the duration of the health crisis.
To better prepare for any eventual health crisis, the report also recommended a strong health protection through the upgrading of health infrastructure, building skilled health personnel and providing equitable access to healthcare systems.
It also stressed the construction of a health emergency system for future pandemics as well as build domestic capacity for vaccine production through initiatives such as the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing.
First published by Cameroon Business Today