UN chief calls for debt relief and post-COVID investments during trip to West Africa | world news

DAKAR (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for debt relief for African countries and more investment to help their economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome the effects of the war in Ukraine.

The UN 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 financial crises in Africa and beyond, António Guterres said.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many poor countries into over-indebtedness and the war in Ukraine 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, the IMF said last week.

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“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 the sustainable development,” said António Guterres.

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

He called on wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine donations and invest in local vaccine production, as nearly 80% of Africa’s population is still unvaccinated against COVID. -19.

“Beyond vaccination, we see great imbalances in investment in post-COVID recovery,” he said, adding that economic growth per capita is expected to be 75% lower in Africa than that of the rest of the world over the next five years. .

Guterres said he visited a vaccine manufacturing unit in Dakar with Senegalese President Macky Sall that will soon be equipped to produce vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.

However, an Aspen Pharmacare executive in South Africa told Reuters earlier that Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine factory, touted as a trailblazer last year, is now at risk of closing after receiving no orders. .

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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