Africa has laid down good economic fundamentals that will enable the continent to rapidly rebuild economies after the losses suffered due to COVID-19, believes Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Speaking on Monday during the Centre for Global Development virtual conference, the Minister said African countries had already made incredible progress across the indicators of poverty, health outcomes, educational enrolments and life expectancy.

“Countries have invested the dividends of growth into health, education, and building the physical and telecommunications infrastructure to connect our countries and our economies. We had also been on track to launch the African Continental Free Trade Agreement this year, creating a single African market and the largest free trade area in the world.

“This pandemic has presented a once-in-a-century emergency and no country is unscathed from its economic impacts. As a continent we recognise the magnitude of the challenge and we will continue to confront it head on,” said Mkhize.

What began as a health crisis has become an economic crisis – COVID-19 has tipped Africa into its first recession in 25 years, threatening to undo 25 consecutive years of positive economic growth.

“The impact of COVID-19 is expected to see an economic contraction of 3.2% in the sub-Saharan Africa region in 2020, reducing per capita GDP to levels last seen in 2010.

“For the first time in decades extreme poverty will increase. Indeed we have already seen that 26-39 million Africans have been pushed into extreme poverty in just the last 6 months alone- raising poverty by between 6 and 9%,” said the Minister.

Reflecting on the economic situation in South Africa, the impact of COVID-19 will see GDP contract 7.5% this year.

“To mitigate this, we have implemented rescue and stimulus packages amounting to 10% of our GDP. For the first time in the history of our democracy, we turned to the International Monetary Fund for relief.

“We, along with 80 countries globally and 35 countries on the African continent, have applied for and received COVID-19-related emergency funding from the IMF.”

Mkhize said it was therefore crucial to have relevant discussions on effective ways to mitigate the economic and health impact of the pandemic across Africa as well as steer the ship back towards the objectives of Agenda 2063 – a safe, healthy, socially integrated and prosperous Africa, free from preventable conditions and premature deaths. 

“That is what we had committed to achieve and our people deserve no less,” he said.

Africa needs USD 100 billion to effectively respond to the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mkhize said he appreciated the current support the continent was getting from its partners, the multilateral agencies and the private sector.

“I can confirm that about 40 billion USD has been committed towards the fight against COVID-19 in the continent of Africa and about 15.3 billion USD has already been paid out at bilateral levels to different member states. We are truly grateful for the support.”

He urged all participants in the session to work together to ensure that the economic and the health challenges the globe is facing.

In South Africa the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases is 661 936 with 725 new cases identified. There have been 39 more Coronavirus-related deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 15 992. Number of recoveries is 591 208.

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