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Africa must lead the charge on tackling poverty – ECA

by Haruna Gimba
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By Haruna Gimba

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said the continent must lead the charge to mobilise domestic resources to recover from multiple economic and social crises which have deepened poverty and widened inequality.

A statement by the Acting Executive Secretary of ECA, Antonio Pedro said that was part of the discussions at the 41st meeting of the Committee of Experts.

Pedro warned that Africa currently led in global poverty, thus, was at risk of missing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He cautioned that Africa would be locked into a poverty trap without bold financial and climate action.

“With more than half of the world’s poor, 54.8 per cent in 2022, being in Africa, the continent has overtaken South Asia with 37.6 per cent.

“While the COVID-19 outbreak has pushed 62 million people into poverty in just one year, with an additional 18 million estimated to have joined their ranks by the end of 2022.

“As many as 149 million non-poor remain at high risk of falling into poverty; 695 million people in Africa are either poor or face the risk of falling into poverty,” he said.

According to Pedro, women and girls remain particularly vulnerable, and we are facing a potential reversal of the hard-won gains made on gender equity.

The acting secretary said the challenges could be surmountable if Africa could implement systemic change and build resilient and sustainable systems.

He said Africa could surmount the challenges if they shifted away from a primary focus on efficiency that had dominated past decades.

Pedro said investments in sustainable building up capital in critical assets, including human, infrastructure, and natural resources were needed to achieve the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The ECA acting secretary called on governments to design strategies that simultaneously integrated economic, social and environmental objectives.

“First, we need to finance our development; getting the macroeconomic fundamentals right can unlock the potential of home-grown solutions.

“Africa still needs a fairer and more just global financial architecture that responds to its needs.

“Many countries currently cannot access international financial markets because of rising interest rates and unworkable existing debt relief mechanisms,” he said.

He noted that Africa must aggressively pursue sustainable industrialisation and economic diversification to transform its natural resources into tangible benefits for its people.

Pedro said, “Put simply our wealth in natural resources must work for the majority, not the few. To get to this point, we must be intentional in our approach.

“We must take centre stage on climate action and recognise that we suffer disproportionately from impact and financing. we have significant opportunities to rebalance the scales on climate finance,” he said.

The state minister for Planning and Development, Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Nemera Mamo, emphasised that Africa must accelerate changes needed for its economic recovery.

“Poverty is Africa’s most pressing challenge, and Africa should advocate for financial changes to aid recovery.

“Climate action is impossible without finance; thus, leveraging climate change financing can help tackle poverty in Africa,” Mamo said.

Mr Mahamodou Diop, Director-General of Planning and Economic Policies of the Republic of Senegal, said Africa’s growing poverty was linked to the worsening economic and financial conditions it had experienced.

Diop noted that Africa’s economic growth had slowed over the past year due to the combined effects of COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, the global economic slowdown and climate change.

While emphasising the need for Africa to build resilience, Diop highlighted the need to reform the current financial architecture, develop effective data and statistical systems and tackle the impact of climate change.

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