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COVID’s Aftershocks: G7 leaders fail to rise to the challenge

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. This week: a weak G7 summit outcome, a growing global learning crisis, and more. 

Gentleman’s agreement: G7 (all male) leaders failed to deliver the ambitious commitments needed to adequately address the converging global crisis of conflict, food insecurity, climate change, and COVID-19 at this year’s G7 summit. Only nine of the summit’s 34 commitments are time bound and measurable, and many others are either vague or a recycling of previous commitments. With more than 900 million people around the world lacking enough food, and global life expectancy falling for the first time in over 70 years following the ongoing pandemic, the world needed and expected better.

Balancing act: At the summit, G7 leaders pledged $600 billion in infrastructure funding for Africa and Asia, ostensibly to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative. But more than half of the pledged amount isn’t new: it includes €300 billion pledged by the EU last year as part of its “Global Gateway” initiative. The US pledged $200 billion, though the majority of that appears to rely on the leveraging of private capital. The size of the US’s listed commitments is enough to pay for about one and a half elevators in a New York subway station (that will surely keep officials in Beijing up at night!). Analysts have generously labelled the plan “aspirational.” Included in the announcement is $3.3 million to support the development of a vaccine manufacturing plant in Senegal.

Future focus: The World Bank is expected to fast track a financial intermediary fund (FIF) to help low- and middle-income countries prepare for future pandemics, following a G20 request. The FIF would act as an intermediary, overseeing funding allocations to help meet the estimated $10.5 billion in annual pandemic preparedness funding needed. So far, $1.1 billion has been pledged. Meanwhile, the African Development Bank approved the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, which aims to increase Africa’s access to medical treatments, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical products through local production. Africa currently imports more than 70% of its medicines.

Learning curb: The pandemic exacerbated a global learning crisis: 70% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries are unable to read and understand a simple written passage. That’s up from 57% before the pandemic. All of the gains in education in low- and middle-income countries made since 2000 were effectively wiped out during the pandemic. Experts warn that countries most impacted by the pandemic may never fully recover from the broader economic and social impacts. Two-thirds of poorer countries cut education spending during the pandemic, and foreign assistance for education has plateaued.

Strategic shift: China’s first special envoy in the Horn of Africa has offered to mediate conflicts and disputes in the region. Focus has been on Ethiopia’s conflict in Tigray as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signalled the government’s desire to end the ongoing war. This is the first time China has positioned itself for a more diplomatic role in the region, though protecting its investments may be a driving factor. Ethiopia has not accepted offers to negotiate from any outside parties.

Bigger fish to fry: It took 20 years for the WTO to finally reach an agreement to limit overfishing {slow clap}. The global framework limits certain harmful subsidies that experts argue have led to significant environmental damage. But critics say the exclusion of some of the most harmful subsidies leaves large holes in the framework that will limit its impact. There also are no clear enforcement mechanisms {face, meet palm}. In Sierra Leone, fish is the main protein for 80% of the population, but overfishing, particularly by foreign-owned boats, has depleted food supplies and left local fishermen in debt.

Dollar dominoes: More low- and middle-income countries are likely to fall into debt distress as global interest rates rise, the World Bank’s chief economist predicts.The tightening of US monetary policy decreases low- and middle-income countries’ access to capital and risks increasing their inflation rates. A strong US dollar depresses global trade growth and makes debt in US dollars more expensive for borrowing countries. This then affects their credit ratings. It will also impact China, which is a significant lender to developing countries.

The cost of inaction: One of the deadliest border crossing events in years has left at least 23 people dead as 2,000 people tried to cross from Morocco to Spain. Border officers allegedly left victims without treatment for several hours, according to human rights groups. African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat has called for the UN to investigate. In 2021, nearly 70% of refugees came from countries in food crisis. Experts warn current crises will further increase suffering and the number of displaced people globally.

From the ONE team

The numbers

  • $4.5 billion: the G7 summit’s food security funding commitment, which amounts to less than a quarter of what the World Food Programme needs to address the current food crisis.
  • 600,000: the estimated number of lives lost due to vaccine inequality by the end of 2021, according to new research.

More reads

  • A new paradigm is needed for financing the pandemic fund. (The Lancet)
  • People linked to the ruling military regime in Sudan dominate the country’s economic interests, a factor that likely contributed to last year’s coup to overthrow civilian rule. (Al Jazeera)
  • Study shows climate change affects likelihood of armed conflict in Africa. (Euro Weekly)
  • The Aid Transparency Index could be forced to close, as its major donor shifts its focus to national programs. (Devex)
  • This election, Kenyan’s can vote for the country’s first known intersex candidate. (BBC)
  • As Monkeypox spreads, high-income countries look set to repeat vaccine hoarding. (Financial Times)

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