Don’t put export bans on medical supplies during COVID-19. Why trade should flow freely to the world’s poorest countries

By Violeta Gonzalez Behar, Head, Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilization, Enhanced Integrated Framework, World Trade Organization


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).



export-medical-covid19-tradeWith coronavirus spreading fast and now present in 185 countries, the pandemic has already reached some of the world’s poorest countries. We are all familiar with the headlines pointing to a shortage of masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns and face shields across countries. Fear and hoarding is only magnifying scarcity.

Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the availability of medical supplies, it may be tempting for governments to save supplies for their own citizens. And this is exactly what is playing out at the global level. Currently there are over 80 curbs on exports of essential COVID-19 medical supplies and medicines that have been introduced by 76 nations this year.

The consequences of such actions are already visible in countries like Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Now imagine how life-threatening this could be in the poorest countries, an example being the Central African Republic, where there are only three ventilators in the entire country. Continue reading “Don’t put export bans on medical supplies during COVID-19. Why trade should flow freely to the world’s poorest countries”

COVID-19 has threatened medical equipment supply chains: it is in developing countries’ interest to rebuild them better

By Piergiuseppe Fortunato, Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD and Annalisa Primi, Head, Structural Policies and Innovation Unit, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


supply-chains-medicalSupply chain breakdowns and the revival of export restrictions in strategic sectors underline the importance of domestic and regional manufacturing capabilities.

Trade can be instrumental for development. But increasing concentration in global markets and repeated threats and rounds of tariff hikes are putting the global trading system, and the institutions around which it was built, under severe stress. The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated these tensions, precipitating the World Trade Organization (WTO) into a stalemate and leading many economies to simultaneously enact temporary export bans and restrictions on critical goods. All at a time when these goods are more needed than ever before, amidst a pandemic which has put vast parts of the planet under lockdown and limited economic activities in an unprecedented way.

Global annual growth this year might fall between 6% and 7.6% according to the OECD’s latest projections and economies in all regions of the world will shrink. Developing economies will likely be hit the hardest due to their role in global trade. Most developing economies specialise in supplying commodities. Their exports have been severely hit by the COVID-19 crisis, as demand for natural resources has plummeted, prices have collapsed, and traditional exports such as fresh, perishable agricultural products have been blocked due to logistical shortages. Continue reading “COVID-19 has threatened medical equipment supply chains: it is in developing countries’ interest to rebuild them better”

Accelerating the response to COVID-19: what does Africa need?

By Annalisa Primi, Head, Structural Policies and Innovation, OECD Development Centre, and Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and with Lily Sommer, Wafa Aidi, ECA, Vasiliki Mavroeidi, Manuel Toselli, OECD development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Africa is at high risk. The most externally oriented economies, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria account for 52% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases (32,979 as of April 28th). The continent lacks adequate healthcare systems. Hospital capacity is weak with 0.3 beds per 1,000 people in Senegal and 2.8 in South Africa, versus 6.5 in France and 8.3 in Germany. The continent is highly dependent on imports of medical supplies: 94% come from countries that have been hard hit by the pandemic, many of which are now limiting exports to ensure domestic provision of critical equipment. The pandemic magnifies the continent’s structural weaknesses, which make self-isolation and lockdown measures costly and hard to implement: 60% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa and the majority of the workforce is informal. The digital gap hampers telework and automation and governments are not able to mobilise investments at the scale needed to secure all citizens. African governments have taken important steps already, also building on lessons learnt in previous pandemic outbreaks. But the challenge is unprecedented: a global solidarity deal is needed. Continue reading “Accelerating the response to COVID-19: what does Africa need?”

Repurposing Africa’s manufacturing: A means to address medical equipment shortages and spur industrialisation

 Rajkumar Mayank Singh, Tony Blair Institute (TBI) Strategic Advisor to the Government of Rwanda, Antoine Huss, Regional Lead, Francophone West Africa, TBI, Jonathan Said, Head of Inclusive Economic Growth, Africa, TBI, and Kekeli Ahiable, West Africa Analyst, TBI


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


PPE production in a repurposed factory in Ghana
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production in a repurposed factory in Ghana. Photo courtesy of the authors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that around 22% of Africa’s population will be infected by COVID-19 within a year, possibly resulting in 150,000 deaths. In a recent forecast by Kearney, even in a suppressed pandemic progression scenario, demand for medical gowns, gloves, masks, swabs, and hand sanitizers will surge by ~1,600 percent from the baseline. In such circumstances, weak health systems and a lack of essential medical supplies leave countries in Africa particularly vulnerable.

Governments around the world have been panic buying essential medical supplies, while the World Trade Organization recently reported eighty countries that have introduced export prohibitions restricting the global supply of medical equipment. In 2018, as depicted in figure 1, industrialised countries like the U.S.A. and Germany had the largest market share in global export of ventilators and testing kits, while China led exports of face masks globally. With African countries importing most of their medical needs, panic buying and supply chain disruptions will significantly undermine the ability of African countries – and hence the world – to defeat COVID-19. Continue reading “Repurposing Africa’s manufacturing: A means to address medical equipment shortages and spur industrialisation”

Covid-19: time to unleash the power of international co-operation

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By Mario Pezzini, former Director, OECD Development Centre and Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development


This blog* is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Development co-operationThe rapid spread of the dire human, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis shows just how interconnected we are. International co-operation has become –literally– vital.

A health crisis has set off a global economic crisis, where shocks on the demand and supply sides are combining in an unprecedented scenario. Many developing countries are bracing themselves. While Europe is struggling to contain and cope with a spiralling number of cases and fatalities, the effects in countries where health systems are already weak, economies are highly dependent on global demand, and strict containment policies are more difficult to implement, could be even more disastrous.

Major outbreaks in developing countries could cause the collapse of weak health systems and expose gaps in social protection programmes, especially in Africa, where so many schemes rely on official development assistance. A humanitarian crisis may be in the making: travel restrictions affect the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and infections in refugee camps – largely hosted in developing countries – will be difficult to fight. The ILO estimates that 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide, possibly more, as the majority of workers in developing countries are in the informal economy. Continue reading “Covid-19: time to unleash the power of international co-operation”

From protest to progress?

By Mario Pezzini, former Director of the OECD Development Centre & Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development and Alexander Pick, Head of Unit, New Development Policies and Institutions, OECD Development Centre

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for humanity to chart a new course and for societies to build forward better. The pandemic has shown that there is a need for change. However, as the new edition of Perspectives on Global Development warns, relying on the same voices, the same institutions and the same mind-sets that prevailed prior to this crisis to answer these questions is unlikely to produce an equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery. A surge in discontent prior to the pandemic demonstrated that these approaches were failing billions of people around the world, as well as generations not yet born.

Continue reading “From protest to progress?”

Risk, resilience and recalibration in global value chains

By Adnan Seric, Michael Windisch, UNIDO, Holger Görg, Wan-Hsin Liu, Kiel Institute for the World Economy 1

COVID-19 supply chain disruptions provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the resilience of global value chains. Data on trade flows and manufacturing output over the course of the pandemic suggest that the supply chain disruptions of early 2020 were of a temporary nature, and that extended global value chains currently interlinking many firms and economies seem to be resilient to trade and economic shocks at least to some extent.

Continue reading “Risk, resilience and recalibration in global value chains”

The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

Continue reading “The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa”

COVID-19: Can corporates be leaders in community support?

By Mr. V S Parthasarathy, President, Mobility Services Sector, Mahindra Group; Member of the Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.; President, Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


shutterstock_109766645It is invigorating to see people, communities and organisations across the world answer the clarion call to provide support to those in need. We are seeing waves of good news roll in – from students driving out to show their appreciation to teachers, to families standing outside hospitals to thank front line medical staff.

Corporations have also pitched in to help governments and citizens fight the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses are using their resources and expertise to shape their response. T-Mobile partnered with Verizon, AT&T, and iHeartMedia to donate nearly 40,000 phone chargers to hospitals in the US for isolated patients to stay connected to loved ones. Subaru has partnered with Feeding America to help provide 50 million meals nationwide to people impacted by COVID-19. The Tata Group pledged Rs 1,500 cr towards relief funds. 3M, Prada, Gucci, Tesla, Ford, Apple, the maker of Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey, owner of Zara, and many other businesses, have converted production lines to manufacture short-supplied personal protective gear and medical supplies. In short, they are stepping far beyond their ordinary workflow.

To respond, adapt and recover from this crisis, I believe companies ought to focus on three basic fronts.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Can corporates be leaders in community support?”

Trading to avoid falling behind in the COVID-19 crisis: Lessons from Central America to boost prosperity

 By Rodrigo Méndez Maddaleno, Economist at Chief Economist Office, Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Panama City, Panama – container vessel leaving the Panama Canal. Photo: Shutterstock

If what and where you export matters, Central American countries need to upgrade the quality of their exports, produce new ones and dive into new markets.

Central American countries are open to international trade. Trade in the region represents 67% of GDP, more than the world’s average of 51%. Average tariff rates for the region have also shown a consistent decline since 2005 going from 7% to 5%. However, the region’s economic performance has not reflected this, with an average GDP per capita growth of around 2.5% in the 2000s, which means that income doubles approximately every 30 years. So why has there not been an economic take-off? What is missing in the region when it comes to trade and economic policy in general? These questions are even more relevant today, as COVID-19 and the global crisis are affecting the region and its major trading partners.

To address this, it is important to analyse several aspects of Central American trade, such as export composition, main destination markets, and discuss what the region can do to improve its situation and boost economic growth and prosperity. Continue reading “Trading to avoid falling behind in the COVID-19 crisis: Lessons from Central America to boost prosperity”