ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
The novel coronavirus has impacted Africa in at least three ways: the loss of an estimated $69 billion since the lockdown started, a drop in the growth forecast and a deepening of poverty, the executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has said.
Vera Songwe made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday, coincidentally the day that two of the continent’s largest economies — South Africa and Nigeria — announced an easing of virus-related restrictions.
“Because of the lockdowns — 42 countries have locked down — we are going to lose $69 billion, just from the lockdowns,” Songwe said.
Countries such as South Africa were now moving to “targeted country-wide confinement” rather than blanket lockdowns, she noted.
In addition, according to the top-notch Cameroonian economist, the continent will lose its economic growth trajectory remarkably.
“We are going from 3.2% expected growth to — maybe if we are lucky — to 1%,” she said, adding the loss of remittances being sent to African countries by Africans and people of African origin to their families and relatives will also be substantial in a continent where many countries are considered to be “remittance-reliant.”
“Our economies have been severely hit on the services side, the tourism sector is on its knees,” she said.
According to the International Air Transport Association, Africa’s aviation sector is expected to lose $6 billion in passenger revenue.
Songwe, who also worked for both the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, said: “We are going to see an increase also in inequality.”
COVID-19 cases across Africa have surpassed the 150,000 mark, with the death toll exceeding 4,000 and escalating, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
– Focus on testing
Africa should focus more on testing and less on lockdowns, said Songwe.
“The media has focused too much on lockdowns,” but it is not helping, she said, adding: “Lockdown is an emotional and sentimental conversation,” in response to a comment that lockdowns are affecting too many people in Africa, especially those low-income people engaged in micro businesses.
To achieve enhanced efficiency in dealing with the virus and also allow for the opening up of economies, “the question should be ‘How quickly can we test, trace and isolate?’,” she noted.
“South Africa has done quite a lot of testing, and easing in South Africa makes sense,” she said.
Africa, according to Songwe, is testing 1 million people each day, and the target should be 10 million.
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