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Image: Andre Nery © 123RF.com

Food security, agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are crucial to the continent’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery, according to the African Development Bank.

The AfDB is currently hosting a three day annual conference virtually, along with the Economic Commision for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme under the theme Africa beyond COVID-19: Accelerating towards inclusive sustainable development.

The development bank has been providing 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 against the impact of the pandemic, by supporting agriculture and creating regional food self-sufficiency.

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AfDB director of macroeconomic policy, forecasting and research, Hanan Morsy: “We see this as an area that needs particular support, an area of opportunity going forward to increase inter-regional integration and to increase resilience against external shocks.”

Participants in a panel discussion entitled Africa beyond COVID-19: How to move towards inclusive and sustainable development proposed tapping renewable sources of energy, adopting new technologies and leveraging the AfCTA as ways African countries are working to build back better from the pandemic crises.

Chief executive officer of the Open Government Partnership, Sanjay Pradhan: “We are seeing catastrophic health crises, devastating economic crises, a climate crises 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.”

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Some key areas of intervention emerged during the discussion, including the importance of addressing the needs of the informal sector and extending social protection to the most vulnerable in society.

Dr Raymond Gilpin, chief economist and head of strategy, analysis and research at UNDP Africa: “This year we published a report that looked at what it would take to provide a temporary basic income in a COVID-19 affect world, and this is most important for Africa, where most people do not have any safety net to address the ravages of COVID-19.”

Panelists also acknowledged the pandemic is placing a heavy burden one women, one that might go overlooked because of the sheer array of statistics. Dorothy Jane Anika, a member of the UN Women Beijing 25+ Global Youth Task Force pointed out that people need to see a human face and human feeling in response to COVID-19.

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Solutions and opportunities are also opening up as a result of the pandemic, panellists pointed out. Chief of the renewal of planning (macro-policy division) in the Economic Commission for Africa, Bartholomew Armah: “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.”

The AfCFTA is also expected to accelerate the continent’s recovery and increase its resilience by boosting the level of intra-African trade of goods and services.