Africa may have lost some momentum on its quest to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but the continent can fast track and get back on track, said Ms. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said Tuesday.
In a virtual conversation with Zeinab Badawi during the CDC’s Annual Review 2019 in which she provided a macro-economic perspective on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Africa, Ms. Songwe said there was a lot that can be done through partnerships and collaboration to ensure Africa regains lost ground in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“What Africa has shown in this crisis, even as we talk about the debt conversation, is the fact that we have matured. We are not talking about debt cancellation. We are talking about a bridge to get over the crisis for many of our countries,” she said.
Added Ms. Songwe: “We could have lost some momentum on 2030 but if we all come back together quickly, we may not have lost that much and we can use that as an opportunity to fast track a few things.”
She shared with the audience, among them representatives from across the United Kingdom government, parliamentarians, policymakers, academics, NGO leaders and impact investors as well as representatives from multilateral and bilateral organisations, initiatives being undertaken by the ECA and its partners to help Africa contain effects of the health crisis.
This includes the debt standstill call for all African nations, the Africa Communication and Information Platform for Health and Economic Action (ACIP), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pharma initiative, and others.
ACIP is a mobile-based tool for two-way information and communication between citizens and governments. It furnishes national and regional COVID task forces with user-generated survey data and actionable health and economic insights that will enable authorities to better analyze pandemic-related problems and implement appropriate responses.
The AfCFTA-anchored Pharma Initiative is a pilot project that seeks to develop the capacity of African countries to ease the burden on their health systems through localized production of medicines, pooled procurement, and a harmonized regulatory and quality framework.
“We are beginning to use telecommunications more to provide information and we can use ACIP for digital ID down the road as well. These are huge investments in ICT that are going to be needed,” Ms. Songwe said, adding the CDC should invest in energy and ICT in Africa, besides shoring up existing businesses; ensuring more risk-sharing, injecting liquidity and making payment moratoriums for firms they work with on the continent.
“We need to keep investing in infrastructure investment,” she said, adding Africa was switching from more fossil-based fuels to cleaner forms of energy like gas.
“We are now at 40 percent of gas consumption. We need to do more of that. It’s much cheaper, much more stable and its generation could improve development on the continent,” Ms. Songwe said, adding gas remained critical to electricity generation in Africa and was a key generation fuel that can catalyse the continent’s clean energy transformation.