African countries urged to balance health, policy interventions to mitigate impact of COVID-19

Mapping Africa

African countries have been urged to strike a balance between health, economic and social policy interventions in the coming months to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The urgent call was made by African experts during the ongoing the African Economic Conference, which is being held virtually from December 8 to 10.

The 2020 edition of the African Economic Conference provides a platform for academics and young researchers to present solution-oriented research to policymakers.

The experts emphasized that measures to prevent the spread of the virus have “dampened prospects for economic growth on the continent, due to the prolonged impact of lockdowns and restrictions on travel and movement of goods.”

As part of the high-level continental economic conference, the impact of COVID-19 on Africa was underscored during a session on the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

A study paper presented at the conference entitled, “COVID-19 in Africa: The Implications for Macroeconomic and Socioeconomic Dimensions,” also noted that while Africa’s young population shielded it from the worst of the pandemic, countries now face weak growth and a diversion of resources that may aggravate the economic impact of COVID-19.

The paper argued that in the face of dwindling resources, the continent’s policymakers will have to implement a wide range of macroeconomic policy measures to recover faster.

According to Mila Malavoloneke, who presented a paper called, “Rethinking China-Africa Trade Relations: The Impact of a Sino-Africa Free Trade on Trade Balance,” Africa’s trade with China has been severely affected as some manufacturing facilities in China shut down during the pandemic.

“With COVID-19, the challenge with the supply chain increased,” she said, adding that countries have to implement structural reforms to address the existing production capacity.

She said that China is a strategic commercial partner for Africa, although there is a need to address the industrial divide for the continent to make significant gains.Malavoloneke also emphasized that African countries should boost trade by looking at negotiating a free trade area with China.

The Africa continent, despite registering relatively the least confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as COVID-19-inflicted deaths as compared with the rest of the world, has endured serious economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent UNECA report, a one-month full lockdown across Africa would cost the continent about 2.5 percent of its annual GDP, equivalent to about 65.7 billion U.S. dollars per month.

The report, entitled “COVID-19: Lockdown Exit Strategies for Africa,” also revealed that the staggering loss is in addition to the wider external impact of COVID-19 on Africa of lower commodity prices and investment flows.

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