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How Can African Countries Create the Fiscal Space to Address the Covid-19 Induced Economic Crisis?

June 16, 2020


The COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic has led to a sudden and sharp fall in global economic activity since early-2020. For developing economies, and African economies in particular, this has caused untold economic harm at the time when more financial resources are needed to fight the pandemic. The region’s revenues from some of the most important sources – tourism, commodity exports, and remittances – are at their lowest. Coupled with capital outflows, this has led to huge currency depreciations and an increase in debt service payments, pushing African countries into further risk of a debt crisis.

Africa’s financing gap is estimated at $100 billion. Thus, there have been calls, including by the African Union (AU), to help developing countries create some fiscal space. The International Monetary Fund responded by offering immediate debt service relief for 25 eligible low-income countries, mainly from Africa, through the Catastrophic Containment Relief Trust (CCRT). But this leaves out many countries in the region. There is a need to find more viable options to immediately plug the current financing gap. In this session, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the African Union’s Special Envoy to Mobilize International Economic Support for Continental Fight Against COVID-19 and Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist of the World Bank Africa Region, will discuss how to find ways of creating the fiscal space and plugging the current financing gap in African countries during this pandemic.

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    Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala


    Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development expert with over 30 years of experience. She is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and of the African Risk Capacity (ARC). She is Co-Chair of The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. She also sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc. She was recently appointed as AU Special Envoy to mobilise International support for the fight against COVID-19 and WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. Previously, Dr Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, 2011-2015, and briefly as Foreign Minister, the first woman to hold both positions. She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank, rising to the No.2 position of Managing Director. Among numerous global awards, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was named one of Transparency International’s 8 Female Anti-Corruption Fighters Who Inspire. She has been ranked by Fortune as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders in 2015 and by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World consecutively for four years. Dr Okonjo-Iweala holds a Bachelor’s in Economics from Harvard University and a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is an Angelopoulos Global Public Leader at Harvard University Kennedy School, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received over fifteen honorary degrees, including from Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous articles on finance and development, and several books including Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (MIT Press, 2018) and Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria (MIT Press, 2012).


    Albert Zeufack


    Africa Region Chief Economist, World Bank


    Hafez Ghanem

    Introductory Remarks

    Vice President, Africa Region, World Bank


  • Place: Online
  • Date: Tuesday June 16, 2020
  • Time: 12:30 - 1:30 PM (ET)