Africa needs help, a lot of help, the African Consultative Group said in a statement released on Saturday, warning that while the continent was still slowly recovering from the coronavirus economic turmoil, the war in Ukraine made things even worse, pushing food prices through the roof and exacerbating inflationary pressures from North to South and East to West.
“Our discussions on Africa’s challenges and prospects for recovery have been very fruitful. Today the green shoots of the recovery that started in 2021 are threatened by the war in Ukraine at a time when the war on COVID-19 is still not over,” the African Consultative Group said in a statement at the conclusion of the Group’s meeting in Washington D.C.
The joint statement was signed by Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Ms. Nadia Fettah, Chair of the African Caucus, and Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), co-chaired the African Consultative Group meeting on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
The African Consultative Group comprises the IMF Fund Governors of a subset of 12 African countries belonging to the African Caucus (African finance ministers and central bank governors) and Fund management. It was formed in 2007 to enhance the IMF’s policy dialogue with the African Caucus. The Group meets at the time of the Spring Meetings, while Fund Management meets with the full membership of the African Caucus at the time of the Annual Meetings.
The group wrote, “Our discussions on Africa’s challenges and prospects for recovery have been very fruitful. Today the green shoots of the recovery that started in 2021 are threatened by the war in Ukraine at a time when the war on COVID-19 is still not over.
“Vaccination rates on the continent remain low and uneven, although some progress has been made in recent months. At 13.2 percent of its population, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the lowest vaccination rates in the world, and at 28.1 percent, North Africa’s average rate is also still below the world average.
“The surge in commodity prices triggered by the war in Ukraine has destabilized global commodity markets, exacerbating both inflationary pressures and food security concerns, especially for the most vulnerable who are already scarred by the pandemic. Several countries in North Africa and the Sahel are among the most vulnerable in the world to price increases or shortages of wheat since they are highly dependent on imports from Russia and Ukraine.
“Although the continent’s fuel and commodity exporters will experience a windfall gain, the positive fiscal impact could be largely offset by additional energy and food subsidies. In contrast, high food and energy prices are straining commodity importers’ external and fiscal balances. Capital flows are also likely to be disrupted.
“We agreed that the top priority must be to protect the most vulnerable households from the impact of high food and energy prices. But the external shock is hitting the continent at a time when most countries have limited fiscal space, with high debt vulnerabilities and increased risks. In this challenging context, targeted, temporary, and transparent support to vulnerable households using and further developing social safety nets would be the most appropriate solution.
“For this effort to succeed, governments in the region, the international community, and the private sector should make concerted efforts to mobilize revenue and additional financing to support the recovery and implement needed reforms to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, achieve diversification, tackle the climate crisis, and transition to a green economy.
“The IMF has been playing its part and reformed its concessional lending toolkit for low-income countries to provide greater flexibility to the access levels. It provided emergency financing to countries with urgent balance of payments needs, debt service relief under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) to the most vulnerable countries and enacted an historical Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation. The SDR allocation boosted liquidity and reserves around the world. About US$34 billion were allocated to countries in Africa, equivalent in some countries to as much as 6 percent of GDP.
“The IMF has just established a Resilience and Sustainability Trust, which will be operationalized later this year, funded by SDRs voluntarily channeled from donor countries. It will complement the IMF’s existing lending toolkit by providing longer-term affordable financing to address longer-term challenges, including climate change and pandemic preparedness. The ACG welcomed initial pledges of about $40 billion toward financing the RST, and encouraged other contributors to make additional pledges to ensure the RST is well-positioned to support African countries to address their long-term challenges and build resilience.
“The group also underscored the need to address rising debt vulnerabilities of developing countries, particularly in Africa and find effective ways to alleviate the weight of the debt service. It also stressed the need to continue working together to strengthen the debt resolution architecture, including by improving the Common Framework for debt treatments and technical assistance within the Multipronged Approach (MPA) to address the remaining capacity requirements.”