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Covid-19: 59m people risk extreme poverty in Africa

Covid-19 pandemic could push 59 million people to extreme poverty, which would bring the total number of extremely poor Africans to 514 million, according to Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Wednesday.

The ECA warns that COVID19 will push an additional 5 to 29 million below the extreme poverty line, if the impact of the pandemic is not reduced by 2021.

On October 7, 2020 World Bank said Nigeria with poverty rate of 39.1 percent has the largest poor population (79 million extreme poor) in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 20 percent of the total poor in the region.

Almost half of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in just five economies: Nigeria (79 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (60 million), Tanzania (28 million), Ethiopia (26 million), and Madagascar (20 million).

Global extreme poverty is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing poverty reduction progress.

The World Bank said the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction. Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, is likely to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020, according to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. This would represent a regression to the rate of 9.2% in 2017. Had the pandemic not convulsed the globe, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020.

Before the pandemic, income disparities were on the rise across the region; and while extreme poverty had almost vanished in North Africa, more than 50% of the population in Central Africa lived below the extreme poverty line. About nine out of ten extremely poor people in the world currently live in Africa.

African growth trajectories and the impact of COVID19 are currently shedding doubts on countries’ ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 objective, unless the region achieves faster growth than before the pandemic in the upcoming years.

According to the ECA, Africa Sustainable Development Report and Agenda 2063 implementation in Africa faced several challenges even prior to the onset of the COVID19 crisis.

Africa continues to experience disparities in universal access to energy, electricity and even clean fuels and technologies for cooking.

While African countries have made progress towards the emission reduction target and have managed to increase the proportion of key biodiversity areas by 4.5% between 2010 and 2020, the region has remained vulnerable to climate change with limited response capability. In addition, Africa has lost an average of 3.9 million hectares of forest per year between 2010 and 2020 due to population growth, poverty and agricultural expansion.

Faced with these difficulties, ECA experts who gathered at the 7th African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD), suggested several strategies to speed up the African recovery.

The strategies include establishing and strengthening of social protection systems for sustainable poverty reduction, and investment in key enablers such as reproductive health, mental health, access to primary health care and education:

• Improved environment through sustainable extraction policies and use of natural resources;

• Investing in modern and digital technologies to increase productivity and encourage innovation;

• Adopting a people-centered approach when addressing issues related to governance, peace and security;

• In order to finance these efforts, the ECA experts recommended the use of a coordinated multilateral approach to debt relief, debt restructuring and development financing as well as domestic resource mobilization.

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