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Monitoring report on the impacts of COVID-19 in West Africa, August 2021

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This report has been prepared by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), through its Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, and the World Food Programme (WFP). The second of its kind, this report provides an opportunity for public and private actors to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the life of households in West Africa in 2021, following the assessment carried out in 2020.

Since the start of the health crisis in the sub-region in February 2020, the ECOWAS Member States and sub-regional institutions have spared no effort to address its humanitarian, social, financial and economic consequences, which have been exacerbated by the restrictive measures put in place to contain the spread of the pandemic, among other things.

Since the third quarter of 2020, the overall health, social, and economic situation in West Africa has improved, even though there are still contrasting patterns between States. As data on the pandemic show, there has been an improvement in the health recovery rate, a slowing down in the rise of confirmed cases and an increase in the number of vaccine doses administered. Since the first months of 2021, the sub-region has seen a recovery of economic activity, linked particularly to the gradual lifting or suspension of internal restrictive measures. Moreover, a combination of other positive factors, such as the upturn in global demand for raw materials and access to vaccines, is contributing to this favourable development.

However, as presented in the report, the recovery of the regional economy still shows signs of fragility and remains insufficient to enable households to return to their pre-crisis level of nutrition and economic wellbeing. This report helps provide an understanding of the causes and overall socio-economic impact of the pandemic and its effects on the life of households, and identifies avenues for a lasting solution to the profound damage caused by the crisis.

The report also rightly highlights the need to make economies more resilient by diversifying their production bases and deepening structural reforms. The medium- and long-term economic stimulus plans proposed by States and ECOWAS to address the consequences of the pandemic respond to this context. They favour transformation of Member States’ economies with a view to ending their heavy dependence on the international commodity market and strengthening socio-economic systems through greater diversification and modernization of economies. The report recommends that such plans should include increased financial support for the economy, especially for SMEs/SMIs, by mobilizing more domestic resources.

I welcome the publication of this report given the relevance of the findings presented and the quality of the partnership between the ECOWAS Commission and the partner institutions, in this case ECA and WFP. I have no doubt that it will be well received by the public, policy-makers and development partners alike. The analyses and recommendations it contains could help inform decision-making regarding measures to support the populations most affected by the crisis.

H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou
President of the ECOWAS Commission