COVID 19; Recovery Paths for Africa

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Observations from the COVID-19 pandemic reflected things consistent with but not exclusive to African countries with the more obvious being presence of very fragile economies which have suffered damages owing to border closures, initial lockdown strategy implemented by many African countries among other factors.

An IMF report predicted the economy to contract by 3.2 percent this year with possible recovery by 3.4 percent next year, subject to easing of restrictions, and using this report as a basis for the analysis, a publication  by Quartz Africa, proves that the region’s largest economies consisting Angola, Nigeria and South Africa will most probably not see real GDP growth return to pre-crisis levels till 2023.

Consistent with the pandemic, is unpredictability with regards to not just when it will come to an end, but inclusive of possible policies’ turnout or trend changes. Hence, preparing to live with the situation by exploring other pathways (different from the usual) that offer prospects is key.

Possible pathways explored in this piece will mostly be put to use, if properly planned and executed with the right resources, recognizing that it could also be time consuming. However, the goal is not just to aid during the pandemic, but serve as a resourceful tool for Africa’s growth beyond that.

Embracing Tech. There have been reports of Africans already designing tech to fight the pandemic and period saw the launch of the first virtual classroom in Africa by Slum2School Africa, serving as a possible prototype for profit driven schools who seek larger reach with cheaper rates, and African governments with the desire to rapidly lift the literacy rate in Africa and return students back to learning. Likewise, the rapid rise in fintech in Africa used as a platform to offer solutions to challenges caused by the pandemic gives deeper insight to the important role tech can play in this period.

Taking advantage of the China-US trade conflict. In line with speculations, an SAIIA July research confirmed that Africa could indeed become a third party beneficiary of the growing political and trade tensions between the two big economies. This scenario is very possible if China could turn to Africa as an alternate source of goods substitute to those once imported from the US. However, relevant policy measures have to be put in place to overtake other competitors for the spot. This will boost the already declining agricultural export of African region to China while building a stronger partnership, making future investments in the region more feasible.

Revitalizing SMEs and boosting entrepreneurship in this hard-economic time should be prioritized. The pandemic has proven the fallacy of job security amongst private companies owing to the increase in corporate downsizing and wages slash. However, this could be the right time to promote entrepreneurship towards innovative solutions to the developmental challenges (un)associated with the pandemic. Lax regulations towards funding of Entrepreneurs and SMEs via loans with lowest interest rate possible in this period should be made. Also, a slash in taxation will be of great help towards boosting the recovery of enterprises and avoiding more job losses as a means to reduce cost.

Conclusively, now is a suitable time to review ACFTA, identify possible flaws, and make amendments (if needed) with a fast implementation plan. Africa’s reduced trade with other parts of the world owing to the pandemic heightens the need to always have a more promising fall-back plan able enough to boost the region’s growth.

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