Coronavirus threatens Africa, ECA estimates over 300,000 deaths

by Muizat Hameed

The Economic Commission for Africa has warned that if proper and adequate measures are left at large, African countries could likely record more than 300,000 deaths from coronavirus.

This was revealed in a new report on the coronavirus pandemic which will be launched virtually today, 17th of April and titled ‘COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies.’

The reports also projected additional cost being imposed on the Africa’s fragile health systems as a result of the growing crisis that has affected over 16,000 Africans and claimed over 800 lives.

Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, reiterated that “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.”

“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 noted.

The report notes that Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support.

Furthermore, the price of oil, which accounts for 40 percent of Africa’s exports has halved in value, and major African exports, such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed.

On partnerships, the Report underscores that African economies are interconnected; the response to the crisis ‘must bring us together as one’.

On mitigation, the Report 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 also noted that the private sector needs liquidity, but it also needs partners.

“That is why we call on the international community to support by injecting more liquidity into our economies,” she stated.

She stressed the need for unprecedented assistance through innovative financing facilities, stating, “We must build back better, by ensuring that we are climate conscious in rebuilding and by leveraging the digital economy.”

“Women are the front end and the back end of this crisis; they are our 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 businesses from collapse, and reduce worker lay-offs,” she concluded.

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