Food security, agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area are the key sectors that will anchor Africa’s post-COVID-19 recovery, a senior AfDB official has said.
Addressing a virtual press conference on the opening day of the African Economic Conference 2020, African Development Bank director of macro-economic policy, re-focasting and research Hanan Morsy said the agriculture sector is among the most vulnerable.
In a statement from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Morsy said the agricultural sector also needed more support during the period.
“Agriculture is important not only for food security issues but also for inter-regional food integration,” he said.
“We see this as an area that needs particular support, an area of opportunity going forward to increase inter-regional integration and to increase resilience against external shocks.”
The African Development Bank has provided much-needed financial and technical assistance to the sector, including small scale agribusinesses.
In June 2020, the Bank launched the Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 (FAREC), a strategic roadmap to safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact by supporting agriculture and creating regional food self-sufficiency.
The three-day annual conference, which opened Tuesday, was organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It was also held under the theme, “Africa beyond COVID-19: Accelerating towards inclusive sustainable development.”
Earlier, during a high-level panel session titled Africa beyond COVID-19: How to move towards inclusive and sustainable development, participants proposed tapping renewable sources of energy, adopting new technologies and leveraging the African Free Trade Agreement as some of the ways African countries are working to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.
The panel featured Morsy, Bartholomew Armah (chief – renewal of planning section macroeconomic policy division) and Ahunna Eziakonwa, the assistant administrator and director regional for Africa in the United Nations Development Programme.
Other panellists included Open Government Partnership chief executive Sanjay Pradhan; Dorothy Jane Anika, convener and Young Women in Political Party Leadership (Kenya) and, Member, UN Women Beijing 25+ Global Youth Task Force; and Dr Raymond Gilpin, Chief Economist and Head of Strategy, Analysis and Research at UNDP Africa.
Members of the panel acknowledged that the pandemic had sharpened Africa’s challenges.
“We are seeing a catastrophic health crisis, a devastating economic crisis, a climate crisis that is ravaging communities, a crisis of inequality laid bare by the pandemic and a crisis of democracy reflecting citizens eroding trust in their governments. No single stakeholder group can tackle these crises on its own,” said Pradhan.
Some key areas of intervention emerged, including the importance of addressing the needs of the informal sector and extending social protection to the most vulnerable in society.
“This year, we published a report that looked at what it would take to provide a temporary basic income in a COVID-19 affected world, and this is most important for Africa, where most people do not have any safety net to address the ravages of COVID-19,” Gilpin said.
The pandemic has also placed a heavy burden on women, panellists acknowledged, one that often might go overlooked because of the sheer array of statistics.
“People need to see a human face and human feeling in response to COVID-19,” said Anika.
Solutions and opportunities are also opening up as a result of the pandemic, said the panellists.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the cost of fossil fuels, making green renewable alternatives competitive.
“African countries have a wealth of renewable resources that can be tapped to then leverage jobs and create employment for the vast majority of people,” said Armah.
In addition, the imminent coming into force of the AFCFTA is expected to accelerate the continent’s recovery and increase its resilience by boosting the level of intra-African trade of goods and services.