Tackling Poverty and Inequality in Southern Africa through people-centred recovery and resilience to global shocks

412

Southern Africa needs to, “build resilience in the energy and food security sectors, as well as finance, integral to its path to recovery and transformation towards reducing inequality and vulnerability”, says Mr. Jorge Jairoce, Permanent Secretary for Industry and Commerce, Mozambique, and Chair of the 28th Bureau of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) for Southern Africa.

He was speaking in his capacity as Chair of ICSOE, at the dialogue for the Southern Africa region organized by the Economic Commission for Africa, Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa (ECA SRO-SA) on the theme of the 2023 Conference of African Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning, “Fostering recovery and transformation in Africa to reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities”. The event provided a platform to socialize the issues paper to be presented for discussion at the Conference to be held from 15 to 21 March 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The paper presents the status of poverty and inequality in Africa in the context of overlapping global shocks and outlines compounding factors as well as promising opportunities for African countries to pursue a people-centered recovery.

Mr. Jairoce said that to tackle inequalities “the region requires bold and decisive actions. There must be clear commitment and cooperation of governments, civil society, the private sector, and international partners. This will obviously not be easy, but with determination and a shared vision, we can make progress towards a more just and equitable future for all”.

At the same event, Ms. Eunice Kamwendo, Director of the ECA SRO-SA encouraged member States in Southern Africa to use the dialogue as an opportunity to address issues of inequality in the region while acknowledging that most countries continue to face high public debt and increasingly constrained fiscal space. She said there was a need to take advantage of opportunities that global geopolitical and climate shocks present to Africa to come up with a “more people-centered recovery that could benefit current and future generations” She cited the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, green investments, digital transformation and reforms to the global financial architecture as some of these opportunities.

She noted that, “Southern Africa is marked by high rates of income inequality. The Gini coefficient shows that in the whole world only 11 countries score above 50 on the Gini coefficient, and 8 of these 11 countries (AngolaBotswana, Eswatini, MozambiqueNamibiaSouth AfricaZambiaZimbabwe) are in Southern Africa – which makes our region the most unequal”.

During the dialogue participants from the Southern African countries shared national experiences on fostering recovery and transformation to reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities as crises continue unabated. Mr. Tayani Banda from the Malawi National Planning Commission informed the meeting that his country is focusing on wealth creation, not just poverty reduction, through social reforms, consolidated social transfer policies, financial inclusion, digital economy, livestock policies and an industry-based domestic strategy that is anchored on youth development and contributes to Malawi 2063 Vision. Dr Nation Bobo from Zimbabwe spoke about how the AfCFTA agreement could be harnessed to increase economic resilience, inclusion and reduce vulnerability, saying the agreement will improve citizens’ living standards because of its expected economic development and growth benefits.

In her closing remarks, Ms Isatou Gaye, chief of sub-regional initiatives’ section at the ECA SRO-SA, reiterated ECA’s commitment to continue supporting member States’ economic recovery efforts and help transform the region for better developmental outcomes through concrete actions to promote regional integration and inclusive industrialization.