The economic repercussions of the coronavirus are expected to put Africa into its first recession in 25 years and could push 49.2 million people on the continent into extreme poverty by next year.
The President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, who spoke during a press conference, laid out the top four priority areas that African countries should focus on to help economies across the continent rebound.
Adesina said investing in infrastructure needs should remain at the top of the agenda as every year there is an infrastructure funding gap of between $68 billion and $108 billion across the continent. This, he said, remained a key impediment to Africa’s growth and is driving the Continent into debt. More needs to be done to foster an environment in which the private sector can carry a heavier burden in infrastructure investments, with a need to create more public-private partnerships.
In particular, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to build up healthcare infrastructure across Africa to prepare for shocks, including future pandemics, Adesina said.
“I don’t see the future of Africa’s youth in Europe or anywhere else. It must be in an Africa that is growing well, equitably, and able to create wealth and opportunities,” he said.
The AfDB chief also stressed the need to close the energy gap because there couldn’t be any development without electricity, adding that this energy needs to be renewable.
“We’re not investing in coal. Coal is gone,” he said.
For example, AfDB has the $20 billion Desert to Power initiative in the Sahel region that is aimed at creating 10,000 megawatts of solar energy, which would make it the world’s largest solar power zone. He stressed that the continent has already committed to universal access to electricity by 2025.
He said there is a need to mobilise capital on the continent. There are sovereign wealth and pension funds that invest in money market instruments outside of Africa. That money should be invested locally, he said.
“Even if you earn money, even if you have a good rate of return, then you’re gonna pay people an annuity for the rest of their lives. And guess what? They are in places without water, without sanitation. … That is a miserable retirement,” Adesina said.
AfDB is working to mobilise institutional investors in Africa to invest in the continent and optimise capital coming from diaspora communities, he added.
The AfDB chief said any investments, such as those made in infrastructure, must be done with the aim of creating sustainable jobs. This year, between 24.6 million and 30 million jobs are expected to be lost as a result of the pandemic.
“I don’t see the future of Africa’s youth in Europe at all. I don’t see it in the United States or anywhere else. It must be in an Africa that is growing well, equitably, and able to create wealth and opportunities for these young people,” he said.