The global pandemic has pushed more than 55 million Africans into extreme poverty and reversed two decades of hard work to reduce poverty on the continent. The Economic Report on Africa for 2021 attributed rising poverty to job losses, low incomes and the inability of families to manage the risks.
In a 150-page report launched in Dakar, Senegal, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said the coronavirus has negatively affected the continent’s economy.
Speaking on Saturday at the 54th session of the African Finance, Planning and Economic Development Ministers’ Conference, the commission’s deputy executive secretary, Hanan Morsi, said the pandemic ended 20 years of achievements in fighting poverty.
“The implications for the continent, one of the most significant impacts of COVID-19, are a reversal of the very hard-won gains that the continent has managed to achieve in terms of reducing poverty,” she said. . “Therefore, we have lost the hard-won gains of two decades of reducing poverty in Africa because of the pandemic.”
The economic fallout caused by lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people and goods has increased the number of new poor on the continent by 55 million people and pushed another 39 million into extreme poverty.
Morsi said millions of people are still vulnerable. She said that 30 million to 35 million jobs are at risk of reduced wages and working hours due to low demand and the enforced lockdown.
“The current reality is that the fiscal deficit has worsened, gender inequality remains significant and has accumulated during the pandemic and worse economic growth in both developed and developing economies is expected to subside in 2023,” she said. .
The report also documents job losses, low earners and their inability to manage risks – making them more vulnerable.
African governments have responded to the economic crisis by expanding their fiscal and monetary policies.
Ken Gichinga, chief economist at Mentoria Economics, said Africa needed policies that could bring people and money to stressed sectors such as food production, industrial value addition and services.
“So, we need strong fiscal policies and monetary policies, but most importantly we need policies that encourage business policies that encourage enterprise, which means things like VAT and taxation,” he said. said. “Those things need to be reduced so that we have money in people’s pockets so that there is demand for goods and services.”
Researchers from the Economic Commission say that the African Continental Free Trade Area could give countries the opportunity to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on external partners and trade with each other.
Gichinga said African countries need to produce more goods for economic growth.
“We need to get these countries into production,” he said. “Not only has there been a decline in productivity but also in jobs and wages. So, by being able to bring 54 countries back into production, that could stimulate the African economy and create jobs. ,
Economic experts are calling on African governments to create programs for social protection and provide short-term assistance to the most vulnerable communities. Africa is also encouraged to invest in health security systems and create a policy for national health emergencies that can stand up against future pandemics.