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Conference seeks new ground to finance Africa recovery

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-20 10:15

African nations have called for an improved global financial architecture that would better serve the continent, after a key economic meeting that ended on Tuesday.

Finance ministers from across the continent gathered in the Senegalese capital Dakar for the seven-day 54th session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, themed "Financing Africa's Recovery: Breaking New Ground".

Delivering a keynote speech on Tuesday, Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, called on Africa's development partners to agree to a renegotiation of the terms of the multilateral system. This is in light of shocks dealt with the global economy by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that existing financial instruments are not working for countries which need them the most," he said. "Africa needs money, but we cannot get it. It is like a COVID-19 patient who needs oxygen but is told, 'We have the oxygen but cannot give it to you because we don't have the instruments.'

"No sooner had we begun to recover from the constraints of COVID-19 than the war in Ukraine came," Sall added. "Although the war affects the globe, it has unique consequences for Africa. We are now forced as a continent to speak up and call for changes in the global system. Thankfully, these days, everybody seems to concur that the international system needs restructuring."

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, spoke at the opening session and made a case for global trade to be seen as a crucial requirement for equitable and sustainable growth.

She said the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine had caused countries to realize that equitable trade was vital in moving goods and funds from areas of plenty to areas where there was a deficit.

Economic blow

Vera Songwe, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said the COVID-19 pandemic had come as an attack not just on health but also on the economy.

African countries have been at war for three years-with COVID-19, climate change and terrorism, Songwe said. "So, finding innovative financing solutions is the need of the hour, because we are looking not just for survival but for prosperity."

She expressed hope that in restructuring the multilateral system, Africa would become a continent that actively contributes to designing global solutions.

Among the proposals discussed during the meeting was Africa gaining more of a voice by having a permanent seat at the G20. This was emphasized by Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Extending the World Bank's Debt Suspension Service Initiative, which helped the poorest countries during the pandemic, and orderly and rational debt instruments also were part of the solution, she said.

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