The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could seriously affect Africa’s already stagnant economic growth.
The UN body said in a statement that this would manifest with oil exporting nations losing up to US$ $65 billion in revenues as crude oil prices continue to tumble.
According to ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, COVID-19 was inevitably impacting Africa’s trade having already strongly hit Africa’s major trading partner, China.
She said, although a few COVID-19 cases had been reported in some 15 countries so far, the crisis was set to deal African economies a severe blow.
“Africa may lose half of its GDP with growth falling from 3.2 per cent to about 2 per cent due to a number of reasons.
“They include the disruption of global supply chains,” said Ms Songwe, adding that the continent’s interconnectedness to affected economies of the European Union, China and United States was causing ripple effects.
She said Africa would need up to US$ 10.6 billion in unanticipated increases in health spending to curtail the virus from spreading, while on the other hand, revenue losses could lead to unsustainable debt.
Songwe said COVID-19 could reduce Nigeria’s total exports of crude oil in 2020 by between US$14 billion and US$ 19 billion.
The ECA estimates COVID-19 could lead to Africa’s export revenues from fuels falling at around US$ 101 billion in 2020.
Songwe explained that remittances and tourism were also being affected as the virus continues to spread worldwide.
She said this would result in a decline in FDI flows; capital flight; domestic financial market tightening and a slow-down in investments – hence job losses.
The ECA boss said pharmaceuticals, imported largely from Europe and other COVID-19 affected partners from outside the continent, could see their prices increasing and availability reduced for Africans.
She said with nearly two-thirds of African countries being net importers of basic food, shortages are feared to severely impact food availability and food security.
“Furthermore, negative consequences are expected to worsen if COVID-19 develops into an outbreak in Africa.
“In addition, a decline in commodity prices could lead to fiscal pressures for Africa’s economic power houses such as Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Angola,” she said.
Also, Director of ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, Stephen Karingi, however, said there was an opportunity the continent could take advantage of.
This is as trading within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is set to commence in July.
“The intra-African market could help mitigate some of the negative effects of COVID-19 through limiting dependence on external partners, especially in pharmaceuticals and basic food,” Karingi said.
He added that diversifying economies away from fuel-driven was vital beyond COVID-19 and stressed the need for the continent to urgently implement the AfCFTA.
He also urged African countries who export drugs to prioritise selling on the African market.