The uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have introduced profound disruptions, threatening to reverse the accumulated gains in the global economy and causing business interruptions, job losses, employee furloughs－even complete shutdowns of companies.
All the developed, developing and underdeveloped countries are rethinking how to rebuild their economies in the post-pandemic era. While it is still too early to predict the full impact of the pandemic, quarterly financial reports indicate many countries will experience economic meltdown.
According to the World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term macroeconomic outlook for the region, the pandemic will affect the economic growth of sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in a decline from the 2.4 percent seen last year to between minus 2.1 percent and minus 5.1 percent this year.
The decline is largely due to reduction in manufacturing in Nigeria, Angola and South Africa.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that if the continent implements a full lockdown for a whole month, it will cost Africa $65.7 billion, equivalent to about 2.5 percent of its annual GDP.
The GDP percentage decline in Africa shows the continent’s economy could experience a great depression that might take ages to rebuild.
Agenda 2063, the African Union’s blueprint to transform the continent into the global powerhouse of the future, needs to be fully activated by the AU to reengineer Africa’s renaissance and serve as its economic tool to foster swift recovery.
The 50-year plan (2013-63) may not be fully implemented due to various challenges that may come along the way, especially those related to peace and security, inadequate infrastructure and unskilled labor, among others.
It is important for the AU to identify priority areas of Agenda 2063 that will serve as a blueprint for African solutions to African problems post-COVID-19.
Some of these areas are science and technology, innovation-driven manufacturing, industrialization and value addition.
First, by focusing on these areas, Africa will be able to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 9, which is to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
Second, the AU should focus on education, science and technology, and innovation-driven skills. By partnering with China, Africa will be able to have skilled labor that will be able to drive the economy through research and development.
This will help young people to become innovative and come up with practical solutions that may improve agricultural productivity, leading to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Third, COVID-19 has exposed the weaker areas within our health systems. We need to build more hospitals, have the required health equipment and invest more in hiring and training healthcare personnel.
Fourth, as the economy rebounds after the pandemic, the AU should ensure through member countries that people who have lost their jobs during this period get government support, and also push for the creation of sustainable jobs and affordable, livable habitats.
Empowerment of women and girls should be another priority that will lead to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender equality.
Finally, the AU should ensure good governance. Through this, the continent will enjoy relative peace and security and be in a position to focus on all other priority areas within Agenda 2063.
As the continent begins to implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Agenda 2063 should be the guiding force to ensure an African renaissance.
The author is a senior policy adviser at the Kenya-based Africa Policy Institute.