Africa

COVID-19: Over 500 million Africans may fall below extreme poverty line, warns report

Indicators such as fiscal deficits, rising debt and remittances are estimated to fall by 20% because of COVID-19 in Africa

 
By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 04 March 2021

As many as nine out of 10 extremely poor people in the world currently live in Africa and the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will push an additional 5-29 million below the extreme poverty line.

If the impact of the pandemic is not limited by 2021, an additional 59 million people could suffer the same fate, which would bring the total number of extremely poor Africans to 514 million people, warned the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in a statement on the second day of Seventh Session African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD).

The forum started March 1 and ended March 4, 2021.

Income disparities were on the rise across the region even before the pandemic. While extreme poverty had almost vanished in North Africa, more than half the population in Central Africa lives below the extreme poverty line.

The United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 implementation in Africa was faced with several challenges even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, according to the ECA Africa Sustainable Development Report.

Africa continues to experience disparities in universal access to energy, electricity and even clean fuels and technologies for cooking.

Africa is also not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, told a meeting reviewing progress made by the continent towards attaining that goal so far.

Before the onset of COVID-19, Africa recorded a positive growth rates, but not enough to achieve the SDGs, said Economic Commission for Africa’s Bartholomew Armah while giving a progress report on the implementation of Agendas 2030 and 2063.

Indicators such as fiscal deficits, rising debt and remittances are estimated to fall by 20 per cent because of COVID-19. This has put pressure on struggling African countries, she added.

Africa continues to face challenges in security, illicit financial flows, among others — all which negatively impacted the continent’s efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas, according to the Africa Sustainable Development Report.

The report was prepared by the ECA, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and United Nations Development Programme.

The interlinked pillars looked at in Agenda 2030 were climate, people, prosperity, partnerships and peace. Those in the 2063 Agenda were partnerships and peace and governance; improving living standards; sustaining double economy, an integrated Africa, and youth and gender empowerment.

African countries can strategically use available tools to steer their countries out of the depressing ripples of the pandemic, and the global sustainable development goals voluntary national reviews (VNRs) have been identified as efficient tools to help countries find ways out of the doldrums.

A panel discussion on March 2, 2021 at the forum unanimously agreed that the VNRs can be useful in mapping out solutions and strategies to attaining the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

The four-day meeting was hosted by Congo Brazzaville under the theme: “Building forward better: towards resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063”.

The ECA team presented the Integrated Planning and Reporting Toolkit, designed to help African countries facilitate the integration of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 into their national development plans and the monitoring of their implementation.

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