Analysis: How Africa Can Tap Opportunities Presented by COVID for Economic Growth
By Uduakobong Inam
The coronavirus pandemic caught the world totally unprepared! From Asia to America, from Europe to Africa, the crowned virus ravaged lives and livelihoods. Its impact on world economies has been widespread and very deep. To combat the pandemic, governments all over the world deployed a cocktail of responses ranging from: lockdowns to creation of Isolation centres; mobilization of healthcare personnel and facilities; palliatives for the vulnerable in the society; stimulus packages for businesses; issuance of covid-19 protocols for all forms of social gathering; and guided vaccinations.
Whereas the African countries largely copied the diverse and conventional measures deployed by the western countries to tackle the scourge, they recorded fewer fatalities than the later. However, the attempt to replicate the lockdown template in Africa proved rather costly as the continent lacked the institutional framework and finances to successfully execute such a strategy. Africa could not afford a lockdown given its peculiar social and economic circumstances. The application of this measure had dire consequences for Africa as it plunged the African economy into unending socioeconomic woes including poverty, job losses, insecurity, negative growth rates, unemployment and debt crises.
It is pertinent to note that the advent of covid-19 coincided with the period in which African political leaders choose to foster Africa’s economic integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This would have laid a veritable foundation for a viable continental market that engenders long-term growth, develops commodity value chains and industries across borders. The potential for income and employment creation (and by extension poverty reduction) is equally largely acknowledged as one of the major benefits of AfCFTA. This initiative is laudable as it is poised to make Africa more competitive in global trade as trade is crucial to development. For a continent with weak growth statistics, AfCFTA is a welcome development and can be leveraged to deepen African countries’ integration into regional and global value chains. Although covid-19 interrupted the pace of the initiative, it still holds a lot of promise for the continent as it is a veritable tool for fastracking the process of economic recovery.
Photo courtesy of Commonwealth Secretariat.