UNDP highlights that the African continent is facing an unprecedented crisis
While Africa is yet to fully recover from the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict poses another major threat to the global economy with many African countries being directly affected.
Speaking at a news briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Regional Bureau for Africa Director said that “we have never experienced greater pressure and challenge on our ability to sustain peace and development on a healthy planet as we experience today. A global pandemic that upended the world and changed it forever. We have seen resulting from that, but also in terms of pre-existing conditions, rising poverty and inequality”.
Emphasizing that global solidarity is needed more than ever, UNDP’s Ahunna Eziakonwa added that “we saw how Covid- 19 complicated the effort to maintain or to overcome the insecurity that’s created by many forces including violent extremism and the impact of this, the consequence, affected live and livelihoods but also creating an immense discontent about the population which is led to a regression in democracy”.
The war in Ukraine affects food, fuel and financing of the African continent. For Raymond Gilpin, UNDP’s Africa Chief Economist and Head of the Strategy, Analysis and Research Team “this is an unprecedented crisis for the continent, and it’s unprecedented because the continent is facing a trifecta: the ongoing effects of Covid pandemic, the newly felt effects of the Russia-Ukraine war and thirdly the climate related challenges and pressures”.
Some countries in Africa depend on up to 80% of wheat coming from Russia and Ukraine, both often referred to as the world's breadbasket. The rise in prices that will begin could create another front of discontent and possibly unrest, warned Raymond Gilpin. “The global inflation has been imported into African economies, because Africa is so dependent on imports for food, fuel, medicines and consumer durables. We are going to see tensions, whether or not this will spill over into violent protests is unclear. But what history, particularly recent history, has told us is that this is a distinct possibility”.
UNDP stressed that particularly countries with upcoming elections where the electoral environment is already quite emotional could lead to additional social pressure.
As inflation rates are soaring, it is also becoming more difficult for household and companies to enhance property and to reduce poverty. “We were hoping to see a bounce back from the poverty challenges that we had experienced during Covid. An estimated 50 million Africans being pushed back into extreme poverty is going to be more difficult for them to climb out of poverty”, said UNDP’s Africa Chief Economist. Concerns are growing that a worldwide shortage of fertilizer will lead to rising food prices, with knock-on effects for agricultural production and food security.
Also the environment will be impacted by the current crisis. UNDP anticipates that about 100 million Africans who were able to afford sustainable energy before the Covid-19 outbreak, will return to unsustainable resources. “As the cost of fuel becomes more expensive, energy sources, energy prices, don’t fall in African countries, we are going to see millions of households going back to unsustainable energy sources, and this in many fragile environments, in particular looking at places like the Sahel”, said Raymond Gilpin, UNDP Africa Chief Economist“. He added that “we are going to see a lot more deforestation and a roll back of a significant progress that had been made in the greening of the Sahel.”