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COVID-19: AfDB says Africa open to business with Asian partners

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COVID-19: AfDB says Africa open to business with Asian partners
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the African Development Bank (AfDB) are pictured in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 16, 2016. Picture taken September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo – RC196B9DEF90

African Development Bank (AfDB), says it is open to business with its Asian partners in spite of the pandemic.

Chuku Chuku, Officer in Charge of the bank’s Macroeconomic Policy, Debt Sustainability, and Forecasting Division, said this at a webinar to present the bank’s African Economic Outlook Supplement on Monday.

The supplement report was presented to Asian participants, who endorsed the report as critical for post-COVID-19 Africa.

According to the AfDB, the African Economic Outlook (AEO), Supplement underlines the urgency to build the resilience of Africa’s healthcare systems and economies to improve countries’ preparedness for future shocks.

This means that African countries would need to rethink their current development strategies and priorities, which had clearly shown their limitations.

Chuku said: “Policymakers must seize the new and real opportunities for participation in global value chains, particularly with Asia and within Africa and build the infrastructure needed to encourage large-scale teleworking, e-health, and distance learning architectures for a rapid, resilient, and sustainable recovery in a post-COVID-19 digital world.

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“The pandemic notwithstanding, Africa is open to business and we look forward to working with our Asian partners,” he said.

The bank also stated that the supplement revised the growth projections and outlook for Africa for 2020 and 2021 and highlights the impact of COVID–19 on Africa’s socio-economic landscape.

It recommended policy responses to safely reopen economies and accelerate growth recovery.

However, Khaled Sherif, AfDB’s Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery, said despite the pandemic affecting all African economies, its magnitude would vary considerably from country to country.

Sherif added that this depended on the economic characteristics and initial conditions of the countries.

“This urges us to avoid the one-size-fits-all solution to address the effects of COVID-19 in Africa.

“For that, the AEO Supplement notes that the continent will need the support and expertise of all.

“This is an opportunity to enrich the debate on what appropriate measures are needed to support African countries to recover from the pandemic, drawing particularly from Asian experience,” Sherif said.

Furthermore, Tetsushi Sonobe, the Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), said investment opportunities still abound in Africa despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Global markets are shifting to South Asia and Africa.

“In a sense, Africa is not very far for Asian investors who may  be interested in the investment opportunities on the continent,” Sonobe said.

Sonobe observed that Africa’s GDP growth was projected to quickly rebound in 2021 following steady growth before COVID-19.

The dean further identified some of the potential opportunities highlighted in the AEO Supplement.

“A large market with a very talented youthful population; a three-trillion-dollar market opportunity through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreements; greater manufacturing potential as low-cost manufacturing opportunities continue to move to Africa; improved business environment; and improving  macroeconomic governance.”

Participants in the webinar noted that the policy recommendations of the AEO Supplement could be regarded as important opportunities for investments.

Participants also observed that although Africa is human-resource-rich, the continent would need to work on closing its infrastructure gap.

About 350 participants attended the virtual event, which was co-hosted by the Asia External Representation Office of the African Development Bank.

The audience included government officials, representatives from the African diplomatic corps in Asia, development professionals, representatives of civil society, academics and think tanks, students, journalists, and the general public.

Released annually since 2003, the AEO provided compelling up-to-date evidence and analytics to inform and support African decision-makers.

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