Addis Ababa — Governments have been urged to intensify efforts to build resilience in businesses and people as they shift to a new normal that includes safe co-existence with COVID-19. Specifically, measures are needed to protect jobs, incomes and livelihoods as well as expanding social protection to mitigate the impact of the pandemic as countries reopen and revive their economies. Policymakers also have to be aware that some pre-existing inequalities make certain population groups, including workers in the informal sector, less able to cope with the impacts of the pandemic.
This was the main message from panellists who gathered virtually on the second day of the 2020 African Economic Conference.
Speaking during a session discussing COVID-19 macroeconomic effects in diverse contexts, panellists underscored the need to protect the workforce, particularly those in the informal sector, and the vulnerable and marginalized communities which are bearing the brunt of the economic and health impact.
There is also concern that some people are falling back into poverty and measures are needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups.
Dr. El Hadji Fall, Senior Economist, UNDP Africa, cautioned that the adverse impact of COVID-19 will continue to be a challenge even as countries reopen their economies.
"COVID-19 pandemic indirect effects will be even more devastating in the long-run. It will reduce labour forces and human capital. African governments need to start investing in education and training facilities to confront the effects. We will also have to revolutionize our mindset and governance system to be able to do other revolutions that we need," he said.
Experts also highlighted that the COVID-19 socio-economic impacts feed on pre-pandemic vulnerabilities and inequalities.
Most assessments by UNDP show that the disproportionate impact on the poor and women include the loss of livelihoods. The pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of coverage and fragility of social protection systems.
Dr. Iyabo Masha, Economic Adviser and Member of the Presidential Economic Council in Nigeria, emphasised the need for improving governance, particularly trust and accountability, to facilitate social protection.
"The main challenge with social protection is not resources but trust. Absence of accountability and trust undermines social protection programmes," she said, calling for efficient governance reform.
Dr. Masha also pointed out that COVID-19 has affected economies in Africa, and some countries have already started using their reserves."One of the ways out is private financers. However, our economic environment, infrastructure and policies are not encouraging to the investors. African governments need to revise that."
For his part, Maximilan Jarrett, Africa Programme Manager at the International Energy Agency, noted that the pandemic has had devastating impacts on the energy sector in Africa, which is a significant part of all SDGs.
"In 2020, there has been a historic decline in energy investment in Africa. We need bolder strategies to accelerate energy accessibility in partnership with investors. Investing in the energy sector in Africa is not doing it a favour, it is reaching global goals," he said. Jarrett pointed out that policy investment in Africa is not sufficient compared to the demand. He added that Africa needs international collaboration to satisfy the financing demand in the energy sector, and African governments also need to implement friendly policies and create environments for investors.
The 2020 edition of the African Economic Conference is being held virtually from 8 to 10 December 2020. The conference provides a platform for academics and young researchers to present solution-oriented research to policymakers.
Special Events (UNDP) Event G: COVID-19 macroeconomic effects in Diverse Contexts (concurrent) by Bernadette Namata