United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ahunna Eziakonwa, talks to Africa Renewal's Kingsley Ighobor on COVID-19, its impact on African economies and how the UN is assisting. Here are excerpts:
Africa Renewal: What is the impact of COVID-19 on Africa so far?
Ms. Eziakonwa: Well, it has become clear now that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, it is also a development pandemic as well, with catastrophic impacts globally and especially in Africa. Even before COVID-19 hit, there were many development challenges in Africa. Some countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are emerging from conflict. In the Sahel region, countries are battling violent extremism. We have socio-economic challenges in the Lake Chad region and in the Horn of Africa after a locust invasion that compromised food security. We already have many healthcare problems on the continent, HIV and AIDS being one of them. And it is not long ago that West Africa had to deal with Ebola, which also crashed economies and health systems and institutions in affected countries. Recovery for affected countries was ongoing.
The other side of that is that prior to COVID-19, Africa was seen as emerging. Despite the problems in some parts of the continent, a sense of promise and hope was starting to develop, with some of the highest performing economies being on the continent. We had a sense of an emerging demographic of young industrialists, people in financial technology developing mobile money. And we had recently signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)agreement, which also boosted the confidence of the continent as a serious place for investment. The COVID-19 pandemic is shattering that hope, that promise, and that confidence.
By the numbers: Impact on economic growth
We have seen the UN Economic Commission for Africa revise projections downwards, showing growth contraction of up to -2.6% from over 3% growth. This could push up to 27 million people into poverty. We have now a region that is stripped of its own sources of financing for development. Oil prices that were already low have tumbled yet over 40% of Africa's exports is in that industry. Countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon that are key exporters of oil are really suffering. Also, prices of commodities such as coffee and cocoa are now projected much lower...