Uche Usim, Abuja
For the umpteenth time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has exposed the vulnerabilities of sub-Saharan African countries worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the region needs a lifeline of $110 billion.
Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of IMF’s African Department, made the disclosure in a statement released on Monday in Washington DC. Selassie however pointed to a number of policy priorities the continent needs to implement going forward.
He also called for cautious reopening of the economy in the face of rising cases of the scourge, while admitting that Africa has shown strong resilience thus far.
He said: “First and foremost, the immediate priority remains the preservation of health and lives. But as the region starts to recover, authorities should gradually shift from broad fiscal support to more affordable, targeted policies; concentrating in particular on the poorest households and those sectors hit hardest by the crisis. “Looking even further forward, and once the crisis has waned, countries should refocus their attention on transforming their economies, creating jobs, and boosting living standards—clawing back some of the grounds lost during the current crisis. As before the crisis, part of this effort will require putting fiscal positions back on a path consistent with debt sustainability; which will in turn require a renewed determination to implement revenue-mobilisation, debt-management, and public financial management reforms. In addition, sustainable, job-rich, and inclusive growth will require private-sector investment, along with a business environment in which new ideas and projects can flourish, and where new opportunities (such as from the digital revolution) can be developed fully. “None of this will be easy, particularly in light of the scale of the crisis and its longer-term consequences. The region cannot tackle these challenges alone, and a coordinated effort by all development partners will be key.