Mon | Oct 26, 2020

At UN, Africa urges fiscal help against virus ‘apocalypse’

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2020 | 1:18 PM
In this photo provided by the United Nations, Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, September 24, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. (Eskinder Debebe/United Nations via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — African nations came out swinging on the third day of the United Nations annual gathering of world leaders Thursday, calling for dramatic fiscal measures to help economies survive the coronavirus pandemic — which one leader called the “fifth horseman of the apocalypse.”

African countries estimate they need $100 billion in support annually for the next three years, pointing out it’s a fraction of the trillions of dollars some richer countries are using to revive their economies.

Debt cancellation is needed to free up more resources to tackle the virus and its effects, including the fight against other deadly diseases like malaria and HIV, heads of state said. Meanwhile, Africa has tilted into its first recession in a quarter-century.

“We need to purely and simply cancel this debt,” said Niger’s president, Issoufou Mahamadou.

The president of Ivory Coast, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies before the pandemic, called for the extension of a debt moratorium and the issue of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund.

“I call on all Africa’s partners to take bolder measures,” Alassane Ouattara said, noting that the fight against COVID-19 and its economic effects has represented 5% of the country’s GDP.

In fact, reforms of Bretton Woods institutions like the IMF and World Bank might be needed to “usher in a fairer international order,” Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba said.

The pandemic has exposed the poor funding of health systems across Africa.

In a separate briefing Thursday, a World Health Organization official said just 51% of health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have basic water services.

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