9 April 2020
African Ministers Outline Responses to COVID-19, Identify Needs to IFIs
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The second virtual meeting of the African Ministers of Finance focused on the health and human crisis in relation to COVID-19; the need for debt relief and fiscal stimulus for all countries; liquidity relief to the private sector; coordinated trade policy environment; and the use of ICT to manage the crisis.

Ministers shared a report on the meeting with the heads of the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, outlining how and where development finance institution can assist.

The UNECA also identified three actions for the G20 to support African countries in preparing for the health crisis and the economic impact.

African Ministers of Finance have released recommendations on five issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared a report with the heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank. Meanwhile, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) called on the Group of 20 (G20) to support Africa in addressing the pandemic.

UNECA organized the second virtual meeting of African Ministers of Finance, which convened on 31 March 2020, following the first meeting on 19 March. The meeting focused on five issues: the health and human crisis; the need for debt relief and fiscal stimulus for all countries; liquidity relief to the private sector, particularly the airline, service and tourism sector, and small- and medium-term enterprises; coordinated trade policy environment; and the use of information, communications, and technology (ICT) to manage the crisis, including awareness, accountability, and transparency.

By the resulting Communique, regarding the health and human crisis, Ministers stress the importance of providing adequate support to front-line workers and access to adequate supplies. Ministers call on African leadership to share accurate, clear, and responsible public health messages and information, and support the African Union’s (AU) call for a continental, coordinated response to COVID-19, including efforts to boost global production and improve the availability of medical equipment.

On debt relief and fiscal stimulus, Ministers call for the “urgent and immediate release” of USD100 billion, of which USD44 billion will go to debt relief for all African countries. If the crisis continues, Ministers suggest that an additional USD50 billion may be needed for the “building back process in 2021.” They specifically call on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support additional resources.

On liquidity relief, Ministers call on the G20, the EU and all development finance institutions to support refinancing and rescheduling of liquidity facilities for Africa’s private sector. They also call for creating a “bounce back better” facility to protect previous economic transformation efforts and save companies and workers.

On a coordinated trade policy environment, Ministers urge keeping trade open, and call on countries to suspend tariffs on imports of essential COVID-19 medical supplies, to facilitate continuous trade through provision of humanitarian and trade corridors, and to oppose imposition of export limits by certain countries on essential medical supplies. Ministers also call for collaboration with the private sector in fighting COVID-19, including through ensuring the international movement of critical health and technical experts, and assisting African countries in gaining access to emergency medical intellectual property.

On ICT, Ministers ask UNECA to work with telecommunications operators to explore how internet and telecommunications platforms could improve the provision of information, raise awareness on social distancing, and help target assistance to the most vulnerable.

On next steps, the Ministers emphasize that measures should be put in place by 12 April 2020. Ministers express hope that the World Bank stakeholders’ initiative, to be discussed on 15 April, will announce additional support for developing countries. They also express hope that the IMF will extend macroeconomic support to countries in difficulty at the meeting of the IMF Committee on 15 April. A report of the second virtual meeting is shared with the heads of the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Central Bank. The World Bank Group and IMF are holding their annual Spring Meetings in a virtual format on 17 April 2020.

Directed at the leaders of G20 countries, UNECA identified three actions for supporting African countries to prepare for the health crisis and its economic impacts: 

  • Support immediate health and human responses, including encouraging open trade corridors, especially for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies, and supporting the upgrade of health infrastructure to enable countries to focus on prevention. G20 leaders also should support public health campaigns and access to information, including expediting partnerships for internet connectivity.
  • Commit US$100 billion to fund the immediate health response, food for children, social safety nets for the most vulnerable, and job protection, in addition to the US$50 billion already committed. As part of an immediate emergency economy stimulus, the leaders should support a waiver on principal and interest for African Fragile States, and endorse enhanced predictability, transparency, and accountability of financial flow.
  • Implement emergency measures to protect 30 million jobs in Africa, particularly in the airline and tourism sectors, as well take measures to support agricultural imports and exports, the pharmaceutical sectors, and the banking sector.

[UNECA press release on second virtual meeting of Finance Ministers] [UNECA press release on Communique] [UNECA press release on call to G20 leaders] [Letter to IFI heads] [Virtual conference webpage

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