COVID-19: A threat to food security in Africa

 By Paul Akiwumi, Director, UNCTAD Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes


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.


Africa-covid-19The International Monetary Fund has projected a deep coronavirus-induced global recession, which threatens a nearly 4% drop in world GDP and could drag the GDP of African economies into a fall of about 1.4%, with smaller economies facing a contraction of up to 7.8%. This decline is mainly a result of export adjustments affecting primary commodity exporters and associated tax revenue losses. This in turn, reduces governments’ capacity to extend the public services needed to respond effectively to the crisis. Overall, UNCTAD estimates a regional average of about 5% in public revenue losses in Africa. Total merchandise exports are expected to contract by about 17% in 2020. These losses will have repercussions on Africa’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063. With at least 60% of the African population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods and access to food, any trade-related distortions to the sector can threaten the food security of the continent’s poor. In addition to the impact of extreme climate shocks on agricultural productivity, there is a strong positive correlation between economic recession and food insecurity in Africa. Despite the continent’s huge resource endowments (including a wide availability of arable land, and a young, growing labour force, among other factors), the continent’s agricultural production alone, hampered by distribution, access, and affordability challenges, is insufficient to meet its food security needs. Continue reading

The G20 and the failure of policy coordination during COVID-19

By Paola Subacchi, Professor of International Economics at Queen Mary University of London’s Global Policy Institute, is the author, most recently of The Cost of Free Money (Yale University Press, 2020)


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.


covid-19-coordination-g20When a crisis strikes, it is a time to be bold and do whatever it takes to avoid the worst. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far has been surprisingly bold at the national level, but at the international level, it has been disappointing to say the least. The G20 – the “premier forum for international economic co-operation” – has played no significant role in this crisis, or at least not one comparable to the role it played during the global financial crisis. Unlike in 2008, when it led the multilateral policy response, the G20 has attempted neither to coordinate the fiscal response nor to ensure that robust and broad multilateral financial safety nets are in place. It is arguable whether the nature of the current crisis requires the same deployment of financial resources as when the banking and financial systems in many countries seized up. However, the IMF and the World Bank have beefed up their resources to an unprecedented $1 trillion of loans and non-conditional credit lines to help developing countries. The G20, in turn, has agreed on temporary debt relief for low-income countries, but limited the suspension to one year. So far just $5.3 billion in bilateral debt repayments have been suspended, against an expected $11.5 billion – clearly this initiative has fallen short in ambition and scope. Continue reading

How COVID-19 is affecting Egypt’s migrants and refugees

By the Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS), the American University in Cairo (AUC)


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 of and responses to the COVID-19 crisis on migration and developing countries.


Egypt-covid-19Egypt has one of the highest numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the African continent and as of August 5th, reported 94,875 cases, 4,930 deaths, and 47,182 recoveries. To curb the spread of the virus, borders and entry and exit pathways quickly closed in March, as international airports shut down to most air traffic, as did the land border crossing with Sudan. Since then Cairo International airport has re-opened as of July 1st. Egypt is a country of 100 million people with around 259,900 refugees and asylum-seekers officially registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It also hosts an unspecified large number of unregistered asylum-seekers and refugees. Many of these refugees see Egypt as a transit country until they have the means to make an onward journey or to be resettled in the EU, US, Australia, or Canada. However, many of them end up staying in Egypt for years, contributing to the local economy. One impact of COVID-19 is that many of those waiting to be resettled, have now been left in limbo in their country of asylum. While the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR recently announced the re-opening of international resettlement, many travel restrictions remain in place.

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Why quality assurance infrastructure matters to fight COVID-19 in developing countries?

By Karl-Christian Göthner, Consultant, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt PTB, Germany


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.


Quality-Assurance-Infrastructure-COVID-19The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that health systems in many countries – developed and developing – were not prepared for such a crisis. Since 2005, several organisations have warned about the consequences of pandemics, issuing recommendations to prepare for critical health situations (WHO 2005, World Economic Forum 2006). However, in many countries few of these recommendations were followed. In September 2019, before the outbreak in China, a study by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security stated that in many countries a lot remained to be done to improve preparedness for pandemics. When the COVID-19 pandemic appeared, most countries had to improvise, with the threat that it would overwhelm their health systems, depending on the timing and extent of their measures and the state of their national health systems. National trade restrictions, interrupting supply chains and impeding medical and protective equipment exports, have also exacerbated the situation. Continue reading

Can COVID-19 revive philanthropy’s risk appetite?

 By Clare Woodcraft, Executive Director, Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, Cambridge Judge Business School


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.


Covid-19-philanthropyPhilanthropic capital is risk capital – an attribute often overlooked amidst the race to secure measurable positive outcomes to report back to donors and boards. Philanthropy has always accepted investing for zero financial return and with the advent of Venture Philanthropy that mimics the principles of Venture Capital, can readily embrace and learn from failure. Indeed, perhaps the most powerful proposition of philanthropy is this ability to focus primarily on social impact rather than financial gain. In theory, this could drive innovation, radically new ways of thinking and experimental ways of finding new solutions to old problems. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

The OECD’s “Private Philanthropy for Development” 2018 report notes that larger foundations working in development actually favour investing in stable, middle-income economies through large, established partners rather than in riskier environments with untested actors. Only a few foundations provide unrestricted funding that might encourage trial and error. And long-term commitments – those of five or more years – are still scarce. Eric Stowe reiterates this point arguing in the Stanford Review that ambitious systemic approaches are rare: “Most non-profits have little appetite for risk. Small, one-off initiatives, isolated pilot projects…are the norm…[and]…rarely ever go to scale.” Continue reading

Mental health and COVID-19 in developing countries

By Anna D. Bartuska, Programme Coordinator, Community Psychiatry PRIDE, Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Luana Marques, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Clinical Psychologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Director, Community Psychiatry PRIDE


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.


covid-19-mental-healthPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a mental health crisis in many areas of the world. In 2017, Our World in Data reported that 970.81 million people had a mental health or substance use disorder. People living with mental health conditions have a 20 year reduction in life expectancy—two times greater than the estimated years lost from cigarette smoking. Despite the overwhelming global need for mental health services, up to 85% of individuals with mental health conditions in developing countries do not receive care due to lack of resources and investments. Unmet mental health needs bear a significant economic burden. The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development reports that unaddressed mental health conditions will cost the global economy US$16 trillion between 2010 and 2030. Continue reading

Resetting the state for the post-COVID digital age

By Carlos Santiso, Director for Digital Innovation in Government of the Development Bank of Latin America and Member of the Global Future Council on Transparency and Anticorruption of the World Economic Forum


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.


glob-digital-colorsIn Brazil and elsewhere, the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the digital transformation of governments and govtech start-ups are becoming unexpected allies in the race to digital resilience.

Press reset and fast forward

The COVID-19 crisis is putting our global digital resilience to the test. It has revealed the importance of a country’s digital infrastructure as the backbone of the economy, not just as an enabler of the tech economy. Digitally advanced governments, such as Estonia, have been able to put their entire bureaucracies in remote mode in a matter of days, without major disruption. And some early evidence even suggests that their productivity increased during lockdown.

With the crisis, the costs of not going digital have largely surpassed the risks of doing so. Countries and cities lagging behind have realised the necessity to boost their digital resilience and accelerate their digital transformation. Spain, for example, adopted an ambitious plan to inject 70 billion euro into in its digital transformation over the next five years, with a Digital Spain 2025 agenda comprising 10 priorities and 48 measures. In the case of Brazil, the country was already taking steps towards the digital transformation of its public sector before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The crisis is accelerating this transformation.  Continue reading

Integrations, amalgamations and mergers: Lessons from institutional reforms in development co-operation

By Jorge Moreira Da Silva, Director, Development Co-operation Directorate, and Mags Gaynor, Senior Policy Analyst, OECD

shutterstock_1154726272Where OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries have been through a process of integration, amalgamation or merger, they have shared with us their lessons both in real time and with hindsight. As a result, we have been able to reflect on the integration and merger experiences of a number of members in their recent peer reviews, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand and have a historical perspective on how restructuring and integration processes worked in countries such as France, Ireland, Japan, Korea and the United States. More generally, we do regular peer reviews of the 30 members of the DAC which give us the benefit of seeing strengths, opportunities, risks and challenges that members experience with their institutional arrangements and reform processes. We hear how institutional arrangements are experienced both internally and externally, including by partner country governments. Eight main observations can be drawn from these reviews.

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Exchange of tax information: a butterfly effect on domestic resource mobilisation

By Zayda Manatta, Head of the Secretariat of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes

shutterstock_1685161738One small change can make a big difference in the fight against illicit financial flows.

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) deprive developing countries and regions of much-needed resources to finance and achieve their development agendas (e.g. the African Union’s Agenda 2063) and the global Sustainable Development Goals. They prevent countries from raising legitimate revenues essential for financing basic services such as social, educational and healthcare systems, and spurring economic development.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underlined how vital it is for countries to have well-financed medical infrastructure and efficient healthcare systems. The economic crisis resulting from the health crisis is undermining public finances the world over. While preserving a business climate favourable to economic recovery, long-term post-crisis strategies will likely have to encompass increased domestic revenues. Improving domestic resource mobilisation and advancing the fight against illicit financial flows needs to be at the forefront of developing countries’ political agendas. Continue reading

Adapting to the new normal: the economic impact of COVID-19 in Central America

By Miguel Angel Medina Fonseca, Economist at Chief Economist Office, Central American Bank for Economic Integration


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.


Eve Orea-shutterstock_1716207883
Photo: Eve Orea / Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing one of the largest economic recessions in the world’s history. In Central America, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration foresees a worst case scenario where the region’s GDP will contract by 4.9%, and public debt will increase by at least 7.6 percentage points of GDP.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted most governments around the globe to take preventive containment and mitigation measures, often implemented under state of emergency or similar clauses. In Central America, most policies have focused on saving people’s lives and reducing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Some measures stand out:
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