The African Development Bank (AfDB) has identified the agriculture sector as an area that needs particular support, and as an area of opportunity going forward to increase inter-regional integration and to increase resilience against external shocks.
Speaking during a news conference on the opening day, on December 8, of the African Economic Conference, AfDB macroeconomic policy, forecasting and research director Hanan Morsy lamented the agriculture sector's being “among the most vulnerable”, especially as it is critical for food security, relying on inter-regional integration.
In this regard, the AfDB has provided much-needed financial and technical assistance to the sector, including small-scale agribusinesses.
In June 2020, the bank launched the Feed Africa Response to Covid-19 (Farec), a strategic roadmap to safeguard food security from the impact of the pandemic by supporting agriculture and creating regional food self-sufficiency.
The three-day yearly conference, which opened this week, was hosted virtually and was organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the AfDB and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the theme, “Africa beyond Covid-19: Accelerating towards inclusive sustainable development.”
During a high-level panel session, titled “Africa beyond Covid-19: How to move towards inclusive and sustainable development”, participants proposed tapping renewable sources of energy, adopting new technologies and leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as some of the ways African countries could work to build back better from the Covid-19 crisis.
Members of the panel acknowledged that the pandemic had exacerbated Africa's challenges. “We are seeing a catastrophic health crisis, a devastating economic crisis, a climate crisis that is ravaging communities, a crisis of inequality laid bare by the pandemic and a crisis of democracy reflecting citizens eroding trust in their governments. No single stakeholder group can tackle these crises on its own,” said Open Government Partnership CEO Sanjay Pradhan, who participated in the panel alongside Morsy.
Other panel members included AfDB macroeconomic division renewal of planning sector chief Bartholomew Armah, as well as UNDP Africa assistant administrator and director for the region Ahunna Eziakonwa, Young Women in Political Party Leadership convener Dorothy Jane Anika and UNDP Africa chief economist Dr Raymond Gilpin.
Some key areas of intervention emerged, including the importance of addressing the needs of the informal sector and extending social protection to the most vulnerable in society.
“This year, we published a report that looked at what it would take to provide a temporary basic income in a Covid-19-affected world, and this is most important for Africa, where most people do not have any safety net to address the ravages of Covid-19,” Gilpin said.
The pandemic has also placed a heavy burden on women, panellists acknowledged, one that often might go overlooked because of the sheer array of statistics. “People need to see a human face and human feeling in response to Covid-19," said Anika.
Solutions and opportunities are also opening up as a result of the pandemic, said the panellists.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the cost of fossil fuels, making green renewable alternatives competitive. African countries have a wealth of renewable resources that can be tapped to then leverage jobs and create employment for the vast majority of people,” said Armah.
In addition, the imminent coming into force of the AfCFTA is expected to accelerate the continent’s recovery and increase its resilience by boosting the level of intra-African trade of goods and services.