Opening Remarks at High-Level Virtual Event on ‘Mobilizing with Africa’
Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director
2020 Virtual Spring Meetings
April 17, 2020
As prepared for delivery
Good morning. Excellencies, Ministers of Finance, Ladies and Gentlemen—thank you for participating in this important event.
We are here today to work in partnership with Africa and to bring more attention and more resources to Africa so that the continent can overcome this unprecedented crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down, causing tragic loss of life and disrupting our social and economic order. As you will have seen from our World Economic Outlook, we anticipate the worst global downturn since the Great Depression.
For Africa, we project an economic contraction of at least 1¼ percent this year—the worst reading on record. Already weak fiscal positions will further deteriorate at a time when it is imperative to deploy fiscal policy to strengthen health systems and support vulnerable households and businesses. It is clear that without rapid and adequate international support, the crisis threatens to reverse the continent’s development gains and damage prospects for years to come.
This is the spirit of the call made a few days ago by 18 African and European leaders, among them President Ramaphosa who is with us today, President Macron, and Chancellor Merkel, under the title “Only victory in Africa can end the pandemic everywhere.”
Our meeting today on “mobilizing with Africa” is also about international solidarity and rapid action to address both the health emergency and its economic consequences in the continent. The region is hard-hit and does not have the healthcare capacity, nor the resources, to face this crisis alone.
Fiscal space is limited, and fiscal financing needs to address the crisis are large—at least $114 billion for this year. Our decisive actions have helped to meet some of these needs, but there is a US$44 billion gap we must strive to close.
We have a joint responsibility to mobilizing with Africa in its fight against the pandemic and its economic fallout. Let me highlight three proposals:
First— Options for rapid and scaled-up financing for Africa. The IMF is mobilizing upwards of US$18 billion for Africa in 2020. We have temporarily doubled access under our emergency facilities and streamlined our procedures to deliver rapid financial support to our members—including responding to over 40 requests from our member countries in Africa. We are also seeking to replenish the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust with the objective to triple our concessional lending capacity for low-income countries. In this respect, I was very heartened by the membership’s response yesterday, with Japan, France, the UK, Canada, Australia and several others promising commitments that take us to 70 percent of the resources needed for this goal. Second— Garnering support for debt relief. We wholeheartedly welcome the G-20’s decision to suspend debt service payments from IDA-eligible least developed countries (39 countries in Africa) to official bilateral creditors through end-2020, which responds to a joint call I made with David Malpass few weeks ago. I would like to recognize the work done by France, Germany, China, and Saudi Arabia in pushing through this deal. We have also reformed the IMF’s Catastrophe and Containment Relief Trust to provide debt relief to our poorest members, of which 23 are in Africa and are seeking additional funds to extend the duration of relief. We call on private creditors to also be part of the solution. Together with the World Bank, we will pay close attention to countries faced with high burdens of debt. Third—Identifying policy responses to deal with the current shock. The IMF has stepped up advice and knowledge-sharing on policies to address the crisis. We support prioritizing policy action to strengthen health services and so protect the most vulnerable people and parts of the economy. We want to see Africa not only managing these challenging issues, but also capitalizing upon the opportunities the crisis will present—to become more competitive and to leap forward, for example, with e-governance and fintech.
Let me conclude. Working with Africa, I have no doubt that we will overcome this crisis and ensure that Africa will become the most dynamic region in the 21st Century.
Meera Louis- photo IMF