Rabat, 18 November (ECA) – “North Africa is the most impacted sub-region of our continent after Southern Africa, and although most of its countries are not in the low-income category, COVID-19 has made its economies vulnerable. When the G20, OECD, IMF and the World Bank meet next, we want to ask for a substantial package for Africa and make the case together for better market rates for borrowing, including for countries such as Morocco or Egypt who have already gone to the market”. This was stated by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe in her remarks at the opening of the 35th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) for North Africa on Tuesday 17 November.
Ms. Songwe elaborated on several key measures being taken by the ECA towards supporting member countries in mitigating the impact of the crisis They include adopting and harmonizing regional policies to facilitate emergency and essential trade within the African continent; encouraging the emergence of pharmaceutical hubs across the region including in North Africa; and using digital tools to facilitate information exchanges between citizens and governments and to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.
“We need to see how we can ensure we build back better, build forward together and grow out of this crisis in a sustainable way” she added.
North Africa, which has so far registered the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region after Southern Africa, is expected to suffer heavily from the pandemic, both on the health and economics fronts. ECA projections for 2020 estimate that growth would reach negative figures in North Africa, against a +3.7% growth rate in 2019, with heavy impacts in wide range of fields ranging from tourism to extractive industries, trade and remittances.
While North Africa was halfway into achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2019, with significant progress in poverty reduction, access to education and basic services, these achievements are now being threatened.
Two reports were presented to member countries at the meeting. They focus on key macro-economic challenges posed by the COVID19 crisis and the reforms required in the short, medium and long-term, as well as the progress made so far by Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia in implementing both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
Overall, participants agreed on the need for increased coordination between North African countries.
“We believe it is necessary to establish a cooperation and coordination framework with development partners and especially ECA, to avoid the duplication of efforts and ensure the efficiency of actions taken in support to development”, said Sidi Mohamed Ferhane, Director General for economic forecasting and policies at the Algerian Ministry of Finance and Chairman of the 35th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for North Africa.
Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) Secretary General Taïeb Baccouche reiterated for his part, his organization’s “continued support to member states in coordination with sub-regional and regional organizations, and for the formulation of practical recommendations for the design of sustainable development programs to help accelerate sub-regional and regional integration”.
Participants also initiated discussions on joint recommendations in a number of areas including:
- The strengthening of regional integration in North Africa, especially within the framework of the AfCFTA to take full advantage of the agreement
- The need to stepping up cooperation between member countries on market regulations, education, R&D, etc. to provide national companies with wider market access, facilitate investment in infrastructures, adapt their education systems to the new post COVID-19 context, and better position North Africa in global value chains
- Promoting the adoption and adaptation of digital technologies through the accelerated development of e-government, investments in digital infrastructures and the development of the digital economy
- The introduction of policy changes through the adoption of planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of job creation programs, along with clear performance measurement indicators.
The Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) is a yearly statutory meeting aimed at taking stock of achievements and assessing economic and social conditions across the sub-region. The annual meeting also tables strategic orientations for the year to come. This year’s edition of the ICSOE meeting for North Africa converged on the theme, “Recovering from COVID-19: Policies and Strategies for North Africa”.