‘New COVID-19 variants a threat to poor African countries’

Source: ‘New COVID-19 variants a threat to poor African countries’ | Newsday (News)

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

NEW COVID-19 variants likely to hit Africa might prove difficult to combat due to inadequate health budgets as countries on the continent are failing to recover from the economic effects of the pandemic, African Finance ministers noted yesterday.

They said this during the 39th United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Committee of Experts meeting which ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.

The ministers said the pandemic plunged the African economies into bankruptcy, forcing them to borrow money for better management of the virus.

“We are disappointed by the slowness in accessing vaccines and funding for vaccine equity,” the ministers said in a communiqué.

“Without rapid access to vaccines, the tidal wave of new coronavirus infections will overwhelm our fragile health systems, decimate limited human resources and set back our recovery. By March 18 2021, the continent had crossed the grim milestone of 4,1 million coronavirus infections, with a case fatality ratio in excess of the global average.”

The economies were bailed out by the African Development Bank, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but the funds were, however, not enough to achieve herd immunity.

The financial experts said COVID-19 had stalled industrial activity which resulted in loss of employment, and affected the economies’ gross domestic product (GDP).

The ministers said their governments were also working towards addressing the adverse climatic changes which affected productivity in various sectors.

“The impact of the pandemic on our economies has been devastating. For the first time in a quarter century, our economies are in recession. Real GDP growth contracted by 2,4% in 2020. Thirty million people lost their jobs and slipped into poverty. Our revenues plummeted while expenditures soared in response to the pressing needs of the crisis and the exigencies of climate change,” the communiqué
added.

African countries pledged to implement the necessary reforms needed to promote transparency and accountability both in the mobilisation and use of domestic and external resources and in the management of debt.

The ministers implored the United Nations to consider extending the duration of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to the end of 2022 to save middle-income economies from falling into insolvency.

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