The fourth edition of the Africa Resilience Forum opened on Tuesday, as the continent’s most vulnerable communities confront the triple challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change.
An estimated 39 million Africans could slip into extreme poverty this year, as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, countries are facing higher fiscal costs, reducing capacity for the critical investments required to deliver on ambitions such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Africa Resilience Forum is a flagship African Development Bank event which brings together key stakeholders across government, civil society, the private sector, and international partners, to reflect on the continent’s conflict prevention, peace, and state-building initiatives.
Amadou Hott, Senegal’s Minister of the Economy, Planning and Cooperation, shared some of the successes from his country that could prove useful in the current crisis. Speaking on behalf of President Macky Sall, Hott said Senegal had adopted a legal framework that provides for flexible and secure public-private partnerships. He said the crisis “reminds us of the need to reorganize our priorities, to strengthen the social protection of our populations and to establish a more endogenous development.”
African Development Bank President Akinwumi A Adesina highlighted the Bank’s work in climate finance and landmark green projects, including the $20 billion Desert to Power solar energy program, which will provide clean energy to up to 250 million people across 11 countries in the Sahel region.
“Across Africa, rising expenditures on defence and security, increasingly displace development financing on essential services such as education, health, water, sanitation, and affordable housing…This compromises long-term resilience needed to bounce back better,” Adesina said. “The hydra-headed challenges of this pandemic, insecurity, and climate change, continue to impact young men, women, and children the most.” Going forward, Adesina said the Bank would work closely with regional member countries on security-indexed bonds to address the root causes of insecurity by protecting investments and livelihoods.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said the continent’s wealth of natural resources and historic solidarity could “lay the groundwork for resilience.” He added: “The Covid pandemic made it possible to identify vulnerabilities and required a new vision for reform.”
Day one featured two further sessions: one on the competing needs of development and security, especially in the prevailing environment of heightened fiscal constraints, while the second focused on climate adaptation, an emerging antidote to the destructive impact of extreme weather.
The security panel featured Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Africa Department, Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and Adriano Afonso Maleiane, Mozambique’s Minister of Economy and Finance.
Minister Maleiane, whose country has been hit by both climate and security challenges, described the impact of the latter alone: “Today, spending on security is equal to investment. Without security (there is) no investment, no growth, nothing.”
The next two days of the Africa Resilience Forum will centre on action around investing in women, youth employment, closing the digital divide, and boosting manufacturing in transition states. This year, the Forum will also serve as a platform to learn about the Bank’s new strategy for addressing fragility and building resilience in Africa (2022-2026).