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COVID’s Aftershocks: The global economy hasn’t done this in 80 years

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, and this week, we’re covering stolen grain headed for Africa, pollution’s impact on COVID-19 infections, economic warning bells, and more.

Top news

Must read from ONE: Did you know solving global hunger could cost half of what we spend on pet food? To understand the impacts, drivers and solutions to the food crisis check out our new data dive.

A 5 Point Plan to End the Pandemic: We got fed up waiting for world leaders to come up with a plan to end the pandemic. So we wrote our own. Read it here.

Getting worse: The World Bank slashed its economic growth projections and cautioned that things could get even worse. The global economy is now predicted to grow 2.9% rather than 4.1% this year, down from 5.7% in 2021. This would mark the sharpest deceleration in a post-recession recovery in 80 years. The bank faults the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine for the slowdown. Low-income countries will be the hardest hit, with their economies likely to be nearly 5% below pre-pandemic trends. The global economy could be entering “a protracted period of feeble growth and elevated inflation” — aka stagflation — the bank warns.

An illusion of choice: The US government is warning African countries that Russia may attempt to trade up to $100 million worth of stolen Ukrainian wheat. At least three Russian ships with stolen wheat have been identified and are expected to head to countries facing severe food crises. Most of the nearly 150 million people suffering crisis level food insecurity or worse are in Africa. Meanwhile, extreme weather, Russia’s war, and the pandemic have caused a global shortage of fertiliser. This is the setting in which Senegalese President and current African Union Chairperson Macky Sall met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where Sall seemingly overstated Africa’s support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. But his appearance was yet another warning to European and North American governments about their weak standing with African countries, especially after the West’s self-interested pursuit of vaccines and profits during the pandemic.

To learn more about how the food crisis is impacting Africa and what leaders must do ahead of the G7 Summit, tune into our ONE Talks event on Monday, 13 June. 

The air we breathe: Higher atmospheric pollution may be linked to higher levels of severe COVID-19 infection. The likelihood of ICU admission and death increased significantly in areas with high levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide gas. The gas is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, and inhibits the lung’s ability to transfer oxygen to the blood. COVID vaccination continues to provide higher levels of protection against severe infections, according to analysis that suggests two-thirds of the world had COVID-19 antibodies as of February 2021.

Coming up short: Oxfam is calling for an innovative approach to climate disaster financing for COP27: mandatory reparations from countries that have contributed the most to climate change. UN humanitarian responses to extreme weather have seen a funding shortfall of up to $33 billion over the past five years, according to Oxfam. Only 54% of required funds have been provided, while funding needs have increased eightfold. Meanwhile, African activists called for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty at last week’s Stockholm 50+ conference, urging African countries to turn to renewables to power their development.

Climate (in)action: G7 climate ministers recently pledged to end all overseas fossil fuel funding, a move not everyone, including a former UN climate envoy, agrees with. The ministers also agreed to ramp up financial support for economically disadvantaged countries that want to shift to green energy. Rich countries have yet to meet the $100 billion climate finance commitment they made 13 years ago. Germany and Canada have been tasked with working on a “$100 billion delivery plan.”

An alarming find: Pregnant women with COVID-19 were 2.4 times more likely to need intensive care and twice as likely to die, compared with non-pregnant women with COVID-19, according to a new study conducted in six African countries. Pregnancy is considered an immunocompromising condition, making vaccinations particularly important for expecting mothers. The risk of death for pregnant women with COVID-19 was five times greater than for pregnant women without COVID-19. This was higher than similar studies conducted in other regions, highlighting the risks posed by weak health systems in many African countries.

Lobbying largesse: The AfDB is seeking to increase its profile in Washington DC to garner greater financial support from the US Congress. The bank aims to raise $24 billion this year. The US is the second largest shareholder and the only one with a seat on the board, but the AfDB remains one of the few regional institutions without a DC office. Still, $380 million remains in unmet US commitments from previous years. Former USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator turned lobbyist Jennifer Mack says she wants to raise awareness of AfDB’s projects and their importance.

Ship, sailed: Nigeria has called off plans to raise nearly $950 million from Eurobonds after missing the window for approval as the government waited out poor market pricing. The sales were intended to address the budget deficit, which is forecast to exceed N$7.3 trillion. The government intends to use IMF Special Drawing Rights for some parts of the budget related to project funding. Nigeria’s debt is expected to hit N$45 trillion in 2022.

Borderline: Intracontinental trade needs to be reinforced with policy measures at national and continental levels to target tariff and non-tariff barriers, according to the recent African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Business Survey. Border issues, including unauthorised charges, customs procedures, and additional fees, continue to impede private sector trade within Africa, despite the passage of AfCFTA in January 2021. Intracontinental trade is forecast to more than double to 33% once full tariff liberalisation is implemented.

Radical incrementalism: At a Pandemic Action Network event, ONE’s David McNair challenged advocates and activists to check their assumptions and the stories they tell if they are going to create the necessary political will to address the existential crises of our time. David shared, “We need to think in radical incrementalism. A radical vision, but with specific steps. Telling the broader story is important… Now, we just jump to outrage,” but we need to tell stories to align values. 💥 If you missed the event, watch the recording (passcode: 6MR8O2P#).

The numbers

  • 23%: the year-on-year increase in food prices attributed to the war in Ukraine.
  • 45 million: the number of additional people experiencing hunger globally since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • 2: the number of African countries (South Africa and Benin) that provide sufficient budget information to their citizens.

From the ONE team

  • ONE’s Olawunmi Ola-Busari speaks to South Africa’s SABC News and eNCA about food insecurity.
  • ONE’s David McNair talks to Australia’s ABC news about the global food crisis.
  • Are we heading toward a global recession? David McNair provides insights in this twitter thread.
  • ONE teamed up with NowThis to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers in Nigeria.
  • See how ONE France has mobilised the community to call on President Macron to address global inequality as part of #GenerAction.

More reads

  • How we classify countries and people matters. (BMJ Global Health)
  • Passport and visa inequities hinder diversity and representation in global health. (Forbes)
  • New research argues that political will is the secret to successful development, but that doesn’t make it easy. (Financial Times)
  • A Chinese firm kept Sh4.3 billion for work that was never completed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. (Nation)
  • At least 20 people have been reportedly massacred in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Nation)
  • How bad is the global food crisis going to get? (spoiler: bad). (The New York Times)
  • Private sector capital remains the missing ingredient in development finance, and de-risking may be the solution. (Devex)

Look ahead

  • The World Trade Organisation’s 12th Ministerial Conference will be held on 12-15 June, where discussion will include the proposed TRIPS waiver and the food crisis.
  • On 13 June ONE will host a panel discussion as part of the ONE Talks series, where panelists will discuss what leaders must do to tackle the food crisis.
  • The G20’s 4th International Financial Architecture Working Group meets on 16-17 June. Hopefully finding fixes for the broken Common Framework is high on the agenda.

ONE Campaign’s Africa COVID-19 Tracker brings together the key data points on how COVID-19 is impacting Africa. Check it out HERE.

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