Vaccine Troubles May Set Africa Back Five Years, UN Body Says

A slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and a lack of funding to bridge the gap between poor and rich countries could set Africa back two to five years, according to the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

“The fact that Africa isn’t going to get vaccinated as fast is going to clearly slow growth,” Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the UNECA, said Monday in an interview. A lack of access to vaccines that will keep barriers to travel and business in place will also slow trade and hamper investments that could set back economic growth and prevent the creation of 26 million jobs, she said.

World output is predicted to expand at the fastest pace in at least four decades in 2021. However, economic growth in sub-Saharan African, forecast at 3.4%, is set to lag other regions, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

“It’s extremely concerning if we’re not able to close the gaps that are created,” Songwe said.

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Poorer countries will need to deploy $450 billion to rebuild over the next five years and accelerate their income convergence with advanced economies, according to the IMF.

While some African economies may have access to funds through the $650 billion in special drawing rights that the Washington-based lender is planning to give emerging and low-income nations to deal with Covid-19 and mounting debt, a failure to secure enough money could set the continent back, she said.