Experts are afraid that post-COVID-19 implications will further exacerbate existing challenges in Africa.
The need for an inclusive post-COVID-19 economic recovery is a central focus of the 2020 African Economic Conference. Under the theme “Africa beyond COVID-19: Acceleration towards inclusive and sustainable development,” experts and officials are discussing the pandemic’s impact on Africans’ well-being from December 8-10.
In the virtual conference that the African Development Bank (AfDB), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and UN Development Programme (UNDP) jointly organized, they are examining approaches to come out of the crisis on an economic development trajectory that will benefit all segments of society.
This year’s conference responds to calls to “improve Africa’s capacity to respond to, and recover from, emergencies and return to the path of inclusive and sustainable development.”
On the sidelines of the conference, Chijioke Nwosu, a researcher at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), pointed to the importance of inclusivity and accounting for inequalities in a post-pandemic response. He noted that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on healthcare systems and the global economy.
This impact, he said, added to already existing income-related health inequalities in South Africa. According to Nwosu, the consequences of COVID-19 will have a severe impact on the well-being and livelihood of African individuals and households in particular.
The pandemic will be most impactful on the poor and marginalized, he stressed.
Creating good-paying jobs and incentives to build inclusive economic growth, as well as narrowing the income inequality gap and ending racial disadvantages are approaches Nwosu proposed as part of an empowering, inclusive, sustainable economic development plan.
Experts and researchers are also analyzing the micro and macroeconomic effects of the pandemic on Africa, examining ways to reduce the trade deficit to save Africa from a post-COVID 19 crisis.
Mila Malavoloneke, a World Bank trade policy consultant, emphasized that reducing Africa’s trade deficit is a solution to prevent a post-COVID-19 crisis for Africa.
Malavoloneke discussed the potential of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in a presentation titled: “Rethinking China-Africa trade relations: The effects of a Chinese-African Free Trade Agreement on the trade balance.” She said a China-Africa FTA would stimulate microeconomic factors and reduce Africa’s trade deficit.
China is Africa’s first trade partner. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, trade between Africa and China rose to $208.7 billion in 2019 alone.
Malavoloneke emphasized that a tariff-free trade agreement on a continental level would improve imports and exports and boost the trade balance, well-being, and gross domestic product (GDP) of every state involved.
The World Bank consultant, however, warned that African states should take into consideration any variations of the effects of an FTA on other industries.
The 2020 African Economic Conference focuses on building African skills by bringing about inclusive policy-making, creating and encouraging innovation in all sectors including education, and broadening management skills that will help Africa in its recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome any future crises.