ADDIS ABEBA – Over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19, a new United Nations report on the coronavirus pandemic claims.
This, as the pandemic continues to impact on the Continent’s struggling economies whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent in a best-case scenario, says the report issued by UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday.
The pandemic could push close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.
The Report, entitled COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies, says Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them because of the growing crisis.
To date, over 16,000 Africans have been infected with the virus while over 800 lost their lives.
“To protect and build towards the Continent’s shared prosperity, $100 billion is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations,” reiterates Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA.
Africa, notes Songwe, is particularly susceptible because 56 percent of its urban population is concentrated in slums or informal dwellings and only 34 percent of African households have access to basic handwashing facilities.
“The economic costs of the Pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the COVID-19. Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies. The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” she adds.
The Report notes that Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support.
Furthermore, the price of oil, which accounts for 40 percent of Africa’s exports has halved in value, and major African exports, such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed.
Tourism, which accounts for up to 38 percent of some African countries’ GDP, has effectively halted as has the airline industry that supports it.
On partnerships, the Report underscores that African economies are interconnected; the response to the crisis ‘must bring us together as one’.
The report will be released virtually on Friday