Without adequate protection, over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19: ECA report

Vera Songwe ECA
Under-Secretary General of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Vera Songwe: PHOTO/COURTESY: busiweek.com

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in a new report on the coronavirus pandemic, says over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19.

The ECA report, which will be launched virtually on the 17th of April and is titled, COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies says Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them because of the growing crisis that has to-date, resulted in over 16,000 infected Africans and claimed over 800 lives at the time of the report’s launch.

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

Africa, notes Ms. Songwe, is particularly susceptible because 56 percent of its urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings and only 34 percent of African households have access to basic handwashing facilities.

 “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 adds.

The Report similarly 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. Tourism, which accounts for up to 38 percent of some African countries’ GDP, has effectively halted as has the airline industry that supports it.

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 notes 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 added.

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