HESPI NEWSLETTER, Volume X/No.1/2020, December 2020
The Covid pandemic has hit the HoA region on top of the problems of many fragile states, such as prevalent conflicts and difficult transitions, wide spread poverty and food insecurity, and large numbers of vulnerable displaced people and refugees. In addition, most HoA countries have been marked by persistent fiscal and balance of payment deficits, high inflation, foreign exchange shortages, and high unemployment in the absence of social security protections.
The pre-covid-19 health services availability in most of the HoA countries were grossly insufficient and highly vulnerable, on account of limited access to water and sanitation, poor nutrition, and were exacerbated by the pandemic. Despite efforts at taking preventive and awareness creation measures, severe shortages in supply of protective materials in sufficient quantity and equipment proved a challenge and led to spread of community infections. Also, other essential health services were disrupted as human, financial and institutional resources were switched to deal with the crisis.
The large scale spread of the virus across the world, and its recurrence in multiple waves have worsened and prolonged the adverse economic impact on the HoA and elsewhere. With all major trading partners of the HoA countries, and their major sources of remittances and development assistance severely affected; the direct impact of the pandemic and its induced global recession negatively affected economic growth in the sub region and significantly reversed the gains on poverty reduction, achieved over decades. Thus the COVID-19’s economic impact in Africa at large is painfully evidenced by the first recession in a quarter century, with economic activity expected to fall by more than 3 percent, according to the World Bank.
Initiating appropriate measures for fast and sustainable recovery is essential; and the reform measures should offer essential opportunities to rebuild not only in line with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, but should also strengthen future resilience to shocks. The pursuit of appropriate policies, development strategies and incentives should be focused on the medium and long-term sustainability. In particular, the need to address the youth bulge and ensure productive opportunities must be given the highest priority through expansion of economic activities, infrastructure, and social programs to create jobs.
There are indications that the decline in employment and increasing poverty are contributing to instability and insecurity in some countries in the sub region; and could generate uncertainty over the path of an enduring recovery. In the circumstances, it is essential to ensure adequate access to Covid vaccines as soon as feasible through the WHO/COVAX global schemes; as it is untenable for most HoA countries to attain direct access through own purchases quickly.
Ali Issa (PhD)