Brazzaville, 03 March 2021 (ECA) -The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light inequalities that have been around for a while in the African continent. Women, youth and vulnerable populations including refugees, migrants, indigenous people, older persons, the disabled and children still remain at risk of various inequalities.
One of the major challenges in the world is poverty and inequalities. During a parallel meeting, SDG 10 on “Reduced Inequalities” was seen to have linkages to SDG 1 on “No Poverty”, SDG 2 on “Zero Hunger”, SDG 3 on “Good Health and Well-being”, SDG 4 on “Quality Education”, SDG 5 on “Gender Equality”, SDG 8 on “Decent Work and Economic Growth” and also Aspiration 1 of African Union’s Agenda 2063 which calls for “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”. This was shown in a presentation by Ms. Phumza Manqindi, Migration Policy and Liaison Officer with IOM Ethiopia. In her presentation, she noted that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) offers an opportunity to increase returns from remittances but also noted that governments need to encourage the free movement of persons within the continent.
In Africa, women participation and representation is still a key issue with a lot of women within the continent still lacking access to equal opportunities as their male counterparts. However, a contrary example to this is the Rwandan government where over half of the parliamentary seats are held by women. This offers an encouragement to women as there is little participation of women in decision-making within the continent.
Mr. Mabingue Ngom, Regional Director for UNFPA West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO), for his part highlighted the challenges heightened by crisis situations. To this he gave the example of the Sahel region where a lot of children do not go to school as these regions invest more in security. He added that education, health, security and climate change are key areas that need to be addressed to ensure reduced inequalities.
The UNHCR promotes inclusivity and forges partnerships in this regard with the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) seeking to address inequalities. The UNHCR also supports economies which host refugees. Mr. Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's representative to the AU, also noted that the UNHCR has invested in initiatives to collect data like the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement. He also emphasized the need for partnership for poverty reduction in the COVID-19 response.
The need for Africa to produce her own vaccines was agreed to be a pressing matter. The collapse of some health and economic systems in Africa with human capital continuing to be depleted showcase the need to invest in interdisciplinary research for inclusive development. Africa also needs to close the technological capabilities gap with the pandemic showing the rural-urban digital capabilities gap.
Interventions recommended from the participants included minimizing taxes levied on mobile money transfer in the case of Uganda, engaging the formal sector in digitization and reducing inequalities that arise from lack of access to water especially where women and girls are adversely affected.
However, despite the continuing challenges arising from inequalities within the continent, there is an opportunity to build back better and recover from the pandemic. Africa has a booming young population, increasing connectivity through transport and communication and increasing freedom of movement within regional blocs which offer a comparative advantage in tackling the impacts of COVID-19.
Economic Commission for Africa
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