ADDIS ABABA – Tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic effectively to ensure Africa grows back and builds back better in the aftermath of COVID-19 requires boldness never before seen on the continent, says head of UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
The pandemic is expected to push sub-Saharan Africa into recession in 2020 for the first time in 25 years, according to the World Bank’s projection.
“Today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA, speaking during an African Youth
Ministers consultative meeting on COVID-19 on Wednesday.
“No time ever in our history have we been at such a crossroads where we have both a health pandemic and an economic recession on the continent,” she added.
Up to 51 percent of Africa’s growth is in the services sector and requires technology, raising the need for member States to move with speed to address crippling internet issues across the continent, according to the UN ECA.
“We cannot grow back and build back better without enough access to technology for our youth who are the innovators. They are the ones who will find the solutions for tomorrow for us,” she said.
Songwe also plead African government officials to join ECA and implement the African Digital Transformation Strategy and increase access, affordability, stability and reliability of the internet system “so that many other things can begin to fall into place”.
“The cost of internet across Africa is very high. It cannot be what creates the jobs for our youth,” she said, “We need to be able to provide the youth with access to affordable, accessible and reliable technology that works”.
Head of the UN ECA also implored African leaders to sign the protocol on the free movement of persons saying this would greatly aid the youth who want to move across the continent, especially to innovation hubs in countries such as Kenya or Rwanda.