By Jimoh Babatunde
The African Development Bank, AfDB, has said an additional 49 million Africans are at risk of extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, with West and Central Africa to be the worst hit.
This was contained in AfDB’s comprehensive socio-economic assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact released on Tuesday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
While asking that governments and development partners to respond in a more coordinated, targeted, and rapid manner to be effective in limiting the impacts, the forecast noted that Africa’s economic growth could rebound in 2021, provided that governments manage the COVID-19 infection rate well.
The predictions are contained in a supplement to the Bank’s African Economic Outlook, which was released on January 30. At the time, Africa’s growth was forecast at 3.9% in 2020 and 4.1% in 2021.
The Bank said growth was now projected to rebound to 3% in 2021 from -3.4% in the worst-case scenario for 2020.
The supplement cautioned that the growth outlook for 2021 and beyond would depend largely on African governments’ effectiveness in flattening the curve of the outbreak and policies to reopen economies.
Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management, at AfDB said: “To reopen economies, policymakers needed to follow a phased and incremental approach that carefully evaluates the trade-offs between restarting economic activity too quickly and safeguarding the health of the population.
“Economic activities can be restarted incrementally on the basis of the transmission risks of different sectors.”
The spread of the virus in Africa depends largely on the preparedness of countries to separate and treat infected patients, the supplement stated, noting that only 21 out of 54 African countries are clinically prepared to deal with epidemics.
Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium and Former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Njuguna Ndung’u, described the African Economic Outlook 2020 supplement as “a very important and useful policy tool for African countries who actually need it at this time.”
“It will be useful now and in the future. It gives us important short, medium- and long-term strategies,” he added, stressing crises like COVID-19 present a good opportunity for innovative reforms in countries.
The supplement noted that the curve of the pandemic in Africa was flattening gradually.
However, COVID-19 remains a serious threat to lives and livelihoods, given weak healthcare systems and limited social protection.
The continent also remains vulnerable to other regional threats such as the locust swarms that have struck East Africa, as well as to extreme climate events.
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