U.N. Secretary-General calls for debt relief, post-COVID investment in West Africa

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for debt relief for African countries and more investment to help their economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and weather the impacts of the Ukraine war.

The United Nations chief spoke in Senegal on the first leg of a trip that will also include Niger and Nigeria, where he will visit communities affected by conflict and climate change.

Supply disruptions due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have caused simultaneous food, energy and finance crises in Africa and beyond, Guterres said. read more

Meanwhile, IMF had stated that the coronavirus pandemic pushed many poor countries into debt distress and the Ukraine war has disrupted their economic recovery, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Public debt ratios in sub-Saharan Africa are at their highest in more than two decades.

“International financial institutions must urgently put in place debt relief measures by increasing liquidity and fiscal space, so that governments can avoid default and invest in social safety nets and sustainable development,” Guterres said.

The United Nations has made proposals to the World Bank and the IMF regarding the mobilization of various funds and debt relief instruments, but so far the measures taken have been insufficient, he added.

He called on wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies to accelerate donations of COVID-19 vaccines and invest in local vaccine production, with almost 80% of the African population still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Guterres said he visited a vaccine manufacturing unit in Dakar with Senegal’s president Macky Sall which will soon be equipped to produce vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.