African nations need $424bn (R7.13-trillion) this year to manage the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the head of the continent’s top multilateral lender.
After decades of progress in the continent’s fight against poverty, Covid-19 plunged 30-million Africans into “extreme poverty” in 2020, African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio.
Meanwhile, Russia’s war on Ukraine has fuelled inflation and left millions of people hungry. Surging prices along with slowing economic growth are also increasing indebtedness in the region.
“We should not minimise the impact of Covid-19 on African economies,” Adesina said. “We have to expand the fiscal space for African countries. We must tackle the whole issue of debt; you cannot run up a hill while carrying a backpack of sand on your back.”
From Ghana to Zambia, multiple African nations have tapped the International Monetary Fund to help revamp their debt and finance government budgets.
The war on Ukraine worsened the situation just as countries in the continent were rebounding from the pandemic.
Global food prices surged to a record after Russia’s February 24 invasion disrupted exports of grain and vegetable oil. That’s worsened a hunger crisis affecting countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Africa depends on Russia and Ukraine for about 41% of its wheat and maize, Adesina said.
The AfDB’s $1.5bn (R25.24bn) plan to boost production will help farmers on the continent produce 30-million tonnes of food, he said, adding that obstacles in importing fertiliser may hit productivity by as much as 50%.