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This year's African Economic Conference (AEC), on Tuesday, heard that rapid recovery from COVID-19 relies on sustainable health, education and food industries, along with income support for women
The virtual event, titled 'Africa beyond COVID-19: Acceleration towards inclusive and sustainable development' brought together leaders and experts to examine the pandemic's impact on Africa, the continent's responses, and how it can rebuild, focusing on sustainable development.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde said African countries should take gender into account during their responses to the pandemic: “Getting women in building back better after this COVID-19 will require dedicated and increased fiscal resource allocation to smart investments in health, education, and consequently the contribution to development.”
The three-day conference was hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), United Nations Development Programme and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Executive secretary of the ECA, Vera Songwe, explained African countries need additional concessional financing and private investments to ensure long-term recovery, “As we strive to catalyze recovery, we must embrace the opportunities offered by the pandemic, including the window of opportunity created by the decline in fossil fuel prices, which have enhanced the economic viability of green investments in renewable energy."
The ECA also called for multilateral development banks to be recapitalised and stressed the need for such institutions to adopt a proactive financing posture and bring their equity-to-loan ratios in line with their commercial counterparts.
The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 mostly stems from a vast proportion of populations not having access to social protection and face substantial gender inequalities in terms of accessing education and health; these disparaties were only exacerbated by the pandemic.
AfDB Group president, Akinwumi Adesina, reiterated the bank's commitment to working with other institutions to build a resilient health defense system: “With these few examples of the disproportional impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, we as policymakers, researchers, development partners, and champions of policy change are challenged to design solutions that leave no country or community behind."
The AfDB has approved US$3.4bn in funding to support member countries under its Crisis Response Facility. This funding is designed to strengthen health systems to begin to reopen economies, enhance economic resilience and strengthen social protection systems to protect vulnerable economies.