COVID19 and its impact on the African Agenda 2063

Many developing countries are entering this COVID-19 pandemic ill-prepared. They are under massive national debt with minimal interest rates, crippling the economy. Mass unemployment cannot be ruled out. The recession might cause unemployment, poverty, and bankruptcy where already a lot of businesses have close down.

Africa’s urban communities are home to 600 million individuals and account for over half of the district’s GDP. About 31% of national GDP is generated from the metropolitans in African countries[1]. All things considered, the financial commitment of urban communities in the region is far higher than the rest of the population.

COVID-19 work impacts are probably going to be extreme in urban regions. With urban-based segments of the economy (assembling and manufacturing) which presently represent 64% of GDP in Africa are expected to be hit hard in the aftermath of the pandemic, prompting considerable losses in productive jobs.

According to Dr. Vero Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, “The growth rate of Africa, which we hoped to reach 3.2% this year, should only reach 1.8% at best..In Africa, a growth rate of less than 3% means an increase in poverty. However, if the measures taken are insufficient, growth could drop to 1 or even 0%, and up to 48 million people would find themselves below the poverty line”

 Specifically, around 250 million Africans in informal corporate jobs (barring North Africa) will be in danger. Firms and organizations in African cities are powerless against COVID-19 related impacts, particularly Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which amass 80% of jobs in Africa1. These dangers are intensified by a possible climb in living costs as indicated in some initial reports of up to 100% spike in the cost of some essential items in certain African cities.

As a major part of its investigation to advise COVID-19 policy reactions, the Economic Commission for Africa, is calling for focused attention towards the vulnerable city economies as African governments combine efforts and characterize improvement measures to mitigate national and local economic impacts [1].

What’s the Agenda 2063

The Agenda 2063 is Africa’s outline and all-inclusive strategy for changing Africa into the global key player of things to come. It is the continent’s strategic body that plans to deliver on its objective for comprehensive and sustainable goals, and is a symbol for African drive for solidarity, self-assurance, opportunity, progress and collective success sought after under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The beginning of Agenda 2063 was the acknowledgment by African pioneers that there was a need to pull together and reprioritize Africa’s toil from the battle against politically-sanctioned racial segregation and the fulfillment of political freedom for the continent which had been the focal point of The Organization of African Unity (OAU), the antecedent of the African Union; and rather to organize comprehensive social and economic development, continental and regional incorporation, democracy, harmony and security among different issues planned for repositioning Africa to become a key player in global politics [2].

How COVID19 is impacting the Agenda 2063 and its aspirations ? 

In its Aspirations 1,4 and 6 pertaining to the Agenda 2063, the need to chalk-out a stable multiyear improvement trajectory for Africa is pertinent as Africa needs to modify and adjust its advancement plan because of continuous changes to its structure; expanded harmony and decrease in the quantity of hostilities; reinvigorated economic development and social advancement; the need for democracy, gender equality and youth empowerment; changing international backdrop, for example, expanded globalization and the Information and communications technology (ICT) innovation; the expanded harmony of Africa which makes it a worldwide force to be noteworthy of and equipped for garnering support for its own common agenda; and evolution and investment opportunities for domains, for example, in agri-business, infrastructure development, wellbeing and education as the respectable expansion in African commodities [3].

Opportunity of development and financial incorporation are the foundation of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 which incorporates, in addition to other things, the dynamic viewpoint of nullifying visa prerequisites for every African resident. However, various hindrances to free movement on the continent persevere. Up until now, except for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), minimal substantial advancement has been made to execute a free movement regime [4].

 In this unique circumstance, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and states’ reactions to it, bring up issues about open borders and people roaming openly. By 29 April, in excess of 34 000 individuals in Africa were infected with the coronavirus and a little more than 1500 had lost their lives[4]. In the event that administrations battle to contain the spread, exacting migration laws and the militarization of border control might be summoned, just as in South Africa. These sorts of measures would be contradictory to the continent’s integration plan.

The greater part of African nations including South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco and Zimbabwe have shut their borders to human traffic to confine the spread of COVID-19. In the wake of shutting its outskirts, South Africa raised a 40 km fence along the border with Zimbabwe. The efficacy of the R37 million fence is dubious, as smugglers and anguished migrants are still able to enter South Africa by slicing through the fence or sailing across the Limpopo River[4].

An Associate Professor of the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mrs. Jo Vearey, has additionally emphasized the hazard that cross-border migrants will become victims of xenophobic discrimination for being ‘bringers of infectious virus.’ No one has a clue as to what extent this pandemic will last, however it will test goals for a borderless Africa amidst financial vulnerability.

A global recession has just started, recommending desperate ramifications for Africa’s economies as the continent may see its GDP development tumble from 3.2% to a mere 2%[5]. Regional integration and intra-African exchange may become vital resources for the continent, especially with the ongoing appropriation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The arrangement is relied upon to be one of the biggest worldwide single markets with an aggregate GDP of US$2.5 trillion and customer and business spending of more than US$4 trillion4.

            The COVID-19 pandemic is probably going to hamper opening of ventures, incorporating those required in infrastructure for transport and communication to actualize the free trade agreement. AfCFTA’s first secretary-general Wamkele Mene, who was designated in March 2020, has just demonstrated that the opening of the free trade area, expected for 1st July, will be postponed due to COVID-19.

The conceivably negative impacts of the pandemic on Africa’s integration agenda are cause for concern. Free movement of individuals and economic incorporation can bring noteworthy advantages for the continent, boosting the travel industry and encouraging investment and trade opportunities.

In any case, travel restrictions in light of COVID-19 will lessen the volume of intercontinental trade and non-essential products. An extended shutdown of businesses will bring down local manufacturing and negatively influence small and medium-size businesses that are relied upon to profit by the free trade agreement.

            COVID-19 could likewise block Africa’s goals for solidarity as nations turn introvert and give preference to their residents’ wellbeing and security. Since the African Free Movement Protocol was implemented, great strides have been made towards visa progression. As per the Africa Visa Openness Report 2019, African nations have gotten progressively open to tourists from the continent since the last 4 years.

As of now, Africans need visas to travel to 49% of other African nations (down from 55% in 2016). The quick passing of the free trade agreement and the signing by 21 nations of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons are further constructive indicators. Anyway, these frangible gains which were not accomplished effectively, could now be undermined as nations close their borders.

So far, the African Union has been effectively scanning for regular answers for the pandemic by, for instance, embracing the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19. On the off chance that this methodology works, Africa’s goals for solidarity could fast track – instead of losing traction– as nations cooperate to counter difficulties.

Bottom line

Travel constraints, the sealing of borders and protectionist approaches to confine trade are important to contain the spread of COVID-19, however are not prudent in the longer run. Nationalist isolation may prompt more noteworthy economic differences among nations and an ascent in dread of otherness. Today, its integral for the African leaders to restore momentum for more profound regional coordination. Example might be made by the Call of the Moroccan Monarch to reinforce the cooperation between African countries to fight the COVID-19.

If anything, lessons could be learnt from the Ebola outbreak. Emergency response in the form of rapid testing could result in early identification of the spread of the pandemic and hence an informed approach could be used to contain it area-wise [6]. The data could help adopt an aggressive approach toward the production of a successful vaccine. The people affected should be helped get back on their feet as it will help the economy in the longer run. And finally, a financial reserve mechanism in place that can fast-track an outbreak response.

The COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the importance of community resilience, and how coming together and helping each other can help the locale as well as ease the burden on the financially strained government. National banks have looked to energize mobile money and other e-commerce platforms as methods for encouraging business while maintaining social distancing. Governments are utilizing WhatsApp to spread information about coronavirus and answer questions, while organizations from South Africa to Morocco are creating self-evaluation applications. The advancement that has been shown will keep on creating opportunities long after the pandemic that incited it is finished.

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[1] United Nations. (2020, April 17). ECA: The economic impact of COVID-19 on African cities likely to be acute through a sharp decline in productivity, jobs & revenues | Africa Renewal. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/news/coronavirus/eca-economic-impact-covid-19-african-cities-likely-be-acute-through-sharp-decline-productivity

[2] African Union. (2020, February 10). Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Retrieved May 10, 2020, Retrieved from https://au.int/en/agenda2063/overview

[3] African Union. (2020, February 10). Our Aspirations for the Africa We Want. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://au.int/en/agenda2063/aspirations

[4] Carciotto, S. (2020, April 29). COVID-19 could stall Africa’s integration agenda. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://issafrica.org/iss-today/covid-19-could-stall-africas-integration-agenda

[5] Africa Press Office. (2020, March 23). African Finance Ministers call for coordinated COVID-19 response to mitigate adverse impact on economies and society. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.cnbcafrica.com/africa-press-office/2020/03/23/african-finance-ministers-call-for-coordinated-covid-19-response-to-mitigate-adverse-impact-on-economies-and-society/

[6] World Health Organization. (2020, April 10). Ebola then and now: Eight lessons from West Africa that were applied in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/ebola-then-and-now