COVID’s Aftershocks in Africa: 52 million Nigerians out of work

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A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and read on for more on Nigeria’s unemployment crisis, upcoming G7 and African finance ministers meetings, and the latest poverty figures. But first, with Tanzania’s president passing, what’s next for the country?

Top news

RIP Magufuli: Tanzanian President John Magufuli passed after a short illness this week at age 61. Some outlets are reporting his illness was COVID. A divisive and repressive figure, he denied the spread of COVID-19 in Tanzania, claimed vaccines were dangerous, and suggested that instead, people pray and inhale herb-infused steam.

Welcome madam president: Under the country’s constitution, Samia Suluhu Hassan, the vice president, is expected to assume the presidency, making her the first female to hold the office. Here’s more about Suluhu. However, the FT’s David Pilling reported that the silence during Magufuli’s illness had raised speculation that a power struggle was in progress. The risk of a messy transition is considered high.

Naija’s not working: One in three Nigerians are out of work, according to federal government figures released this week. The size of its workforce has been shrinking since the pandemic started, with full employment half of what it was in 2015. Back then, Nigeria had 68 million people working 40+ hours per week. That’s down to 31 million people. Unemployment is 3 percentage points higher for women (35%), but young people face the greatest challenges: 53.4% of 15-24 year olds in the workforce are now unemployed. For more on employment in Africa, check out ONE’s new employment dashboard, created by our Policy Analyst Razaq Fatai.

Redemption: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak — fresh from cutting aid and splashing out on new nukes — will host G7 economic chiefs this week. He has the chance to do something really good. G7 finance ministers should signal a decisive commitment to creating $650 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings next month. Some insiders are suggesting this urgent step could take until August to come to fruition, but Rishi could change this.

Need for speed: African finance ministers meet on Monday. We expect strong words on the urgent need for SDRs, a debt relief extension, and more action on the vaccine roll out. One senior African official told ONE: “How come the US can agree trillions in stimulus in a matter of weeks and we’re left to wait a year and a half before we get support?”

No thanks: Kenya will not be seeking further debt relief through the G20’s Common Framework out of fear that doing so would curtail access to capital markets. Ethiopia was placed on review for downgrade by Moody’s last week due to its entry into the framework. Elsewhere, Johns Hopkins University highlighted how Chinese lenders have provided at least $7.6 billion in debt relief in 2020 and 2021.

Copper is gold: In Zambia half of government revenues are allocated to external debt service, which equals twice the country’s expenditure on education and five times that of health. But higher copper prices could offer welcome relief: The Economist Intelligence Unit projects the fiscal deficit will narrow from an estimated 10.9% in 2020 to 9.2% this year and to 4.3% in 2025.

Half the planet: New poverty data from the World Bank shows higher poverty rates in East Africa than in West Africa. In the wake of the pandemic, 277 million people live on less than $1.90 a day in East Africa, with 156 million people in West Africa. Globally, 3.26 billion people live on less than $5.50 a day — or one in four people on the planet.

Check the sums: With the climate crisis high on the international agenda in the lead up to COP26, climate finance is in the spotlight. Back in 2009, governments committed to raising an additional $100 billion a year for developing countries. New analysis from the Center for Global Development shows that just $43.6 billion of the $78.9 billion that the OECD categorises as climate finance was new money — the rest was a rebadging effort.

(Un) happy birthday: ONE will release new analysis on Monday that shows the true toll of lost learning, an area where Africa has been hit hard. When a child reaches 10 years old, they hit a critical milestone: They stop learning to read and start reading to learn, a milestone that sets them up for life in a modern knowledge-based economy. Check ONE.org for the full report. In the meantime check out this excellent article from Girindre Beeharry, education lead at the Gates Foundation.

The numbers

  • $7.6 billion: debt relief provided by Chinese lenders in 2020-21
  • 3.26 billion: the number of people living on less than $5.50 a day
  • 52 million: Nigerians who are out of work

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