UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is warning that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress and could push millions into extreme poverty.
Antonio Guterres said in a video message Wednesday launching a policy briefing on “The Impact of COVID-19 in Africa” that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, “and as of now reported cases are lower than feared,” with more than 2,500 deaths.
But the U.N. chief said “much hangs in the balance,” and he called for “international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.”
To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries.”
He said in recent years economic growth in Africa has been strong, the digital revolution “has taken hold” and agreement has been reached on a free trade area.
But Guterres said “already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining” and “the opening of the trade zone has been pushed back.”
And the secretary-general said the pandemic “will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.”