Africa: COVID-19 a Huge Hit to African Economic Growth - Free Trade Can Soften the Blow

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Intra-African trade is likely to mitigate the continent's susceptibility to the vagaries of global economic uncertainty. It is disappointing that intra-African trade is still less than 20% of Africa's total trade volumes.

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to Africa in multiple ways. Just a year ago, the world was gushing about Africa's economic growth, especially in small economies. The enthusiasm was not misplaced because Africa was one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. The 2.4% economic growth that Africa registered could easily have been higher if big economies such as Nigeria and South Africa had registered more growth than they did.

The coronavirus pandemic has punctured the enthusiasm of 2019. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has issued a supplement to its African Economic Outlook that it published in January 2020. The AfDB now predicts that Africa's economic growth for 2020 might decline to minus 3.4% and that about 49 million Africans, mostly from West and Central Africa could join the extremely poor Africans.

These numbers are devastatingly scary. Already, the World Bank has noted that there is a chance that by 2030, extreme poverty will only be in Africa if the continent does not improve the...

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