‘Africans can fast-track SDGs despite pandemic’

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By Bola Olajuwon, Assistant Editor

Africa may have lost some momentum on its quest to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the continent can fast-track and get back on track, said Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms. Vera Songwe, said on Tuesday.

Ms. Songwe spoke during  a virtual conversation with Zeinab Badawi during the CDC’s Annual Review 2019 in which she provided a macro-economic perspective on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Africa.

She said there was a lot that can be done through partnerships and collaboration to ensure Africa regains lost ground in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Badawi is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist.

“What Africa has shown in this crisis, even as we talk about the debt conversation, is the fact that we have matured. We are not talking about debt cancellation. We are talking about a bridge to get over the crisis for many of our countries

“We could have lost some momentum on 2030, but if we all come back together quickly, we may not have lost that much and we can use that as an opportunity to fast-track a few things,” she said.

She shared with the audience, among them representatives from across the United Kingdom government, parliamentarians, policy makers, academics, NGO leaders and impact investors as well as representatives from multilateral and bilateral organisations the initiatives being undertaken by the ECA and its partners to help Africa contain effects of the health crisis.

This includes the debt standstill call for all African nations, the Africa Communication and Information Platform for Health and Economic Action (ACIP), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pharma initiative, and others.

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ACIP is a mobile based tool for two-way information and communication between citizens and governments. It furnishes national and regional COVID task forces with user-generated survey data and actionable health and economic insights that will enable authorities to better analyze pandemic-related problems and implement appropriate responses.

For his part, CDC Chief Executive Officer, Nick O’Donohoe, said aside from the obvious health crisis that Africa is going through, there was huge economic damage caused by coronavirus.

He said the role of the development finance institutions like the CDC in such circumstances is to step forward to fill the gap of commercial money being withdrawn.

Yasemin Lamy, Deputy Chief Investment Officer at the CDC, said since the COVID-19 outbreak, CDC has focused on preserving jobs in countries they have invested in; adopted systematic injection of liquidity; and is focusing on rebuilding for impact.

Songwe said Africa has a more powerful tool in AfCFTA to accelerate regional and economic integration and prepare for uncertain times.

She said this in a virtual panel discussion to mark the inaugural Africa Integration Day that was set aside by the African Union to mark the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Integration, said Ms. Songwe, is key for Africa’s growth and attainment of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and Africa’s development aspirations as found in Agenda 2063.

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