There is a very interesting set of interviews by Folashadé Soulé and Camilla Toulmin giving perspectives from Africa on the policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Two interviews are highlighted in this post that bring out issues that merit much more policy attention from governments who are currently narrowly focused on Covid-19 numbers - the deep debt distress and the disproportionate negative impact on women have long term implications for the resilience of societies and economies.
Pr Benno Ndulu, the former Governor of the Bank of Tanzania, flags the severe debt distress that the Covid-19 pandemic is accentuating in many African countries - "There has been a huge change in the composition of African debt: it’s shorter in maturity, and commercial to a large extent which means reputational risk is a much bigger issue than it has been in the past. That’s where the rating agencies come in. Unfortunately, rating agencies have tended to act in procyclical way: when things are bad, that’s when they pronounce you to be in really bad shape. African countries now have also to deal with a creditor coordination problem. It used to be the Paris Club and everything was settled there, but now there are new donors like China and the real question is how does one get coordination among all the creditors to deal with this issue."
He also raises the need for countries to get digitally ready and inclusively, pointing to the increasing role of technology in improving productivity and formalisation as well as globalisation through tele-migration taking "jobs to where people are rather than having to force migration of people from the rural areas into the cities in order to be able to offer their services."
Takyiwaa Manuh, Emerita Professor of African Studies at the University of Ghana, brings out the impact on women: "We’ve been very concerned about the gendered impacts of COVID-19. Government statements hardly mention gender, but mainly focus on the economy. It is expected for instance that GDP growth will fall from more than 6% this year to 2% and this will affect tax revenues, production, trade and commodity prices. Government speaks of these things as if there are no people who lie behind the changes, but just disembodied activities. But when you begin to disaggregate, say the tourism sector, which has been badly affected, you find the hotel industry, food chains, restaurants and catering establishments are run mainly by women, so there’s a disproportionate impact."..."even when there is a focus on gender it tends to be on the economic aspects, and not on the human rights and bodily integrity of women, which are essentially considered as private matters."