Min. Tweah Addresses IMF African Caucus Meeting -Urges WB, IMF support to combat COVID-19

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samuel D. Tweah Jr has said that It is imperative that the World Bank Group and the IMF offer liquidity support and foster greater multilateral cooperation to boost vaccine supply while ensuring equitable access and distribution of vaccines, adding that enhanced international cooperation can help unlock more funding sources, sustain economic improvement and limit long-term scarring and that the recent SDR allocation provides a welcome relief and offer policy scope and liquidity support to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

The Minister’s statement was contained in his remarks delivered On COVID-19, Vaccine Access and Deployment at the IMF African Caucus Meeting as Liberia’s Governor to the International Monetary Fund.

“We commend the World Bank Group’s efforts to expand the vaccine envelope to $20 billion, provide advisory support and collaborate with partners to prepare for the scaling-up of vaccine acquisition and deployment. We commend the European Union for its strong support to the COVAX vaccine facility, which is the major conduit for delivering vaccines to the continent of Africa. We especially thank the United States Government for being the largest single donor to COVAX”.

He said however, despite these efforts, vaccine access, affordability and vaccine hesitancy continue to impede the response efforts and vaccination campaigns in many Sub-Saharan African countries. He reeled out some contrasting figures between the wealthiest and poorest countries, especially African countries stating that as of September 14, 5.7 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, but less than 2 percent of these are in Africa. “About 77 percent of vaccines produced to date have gone to wealthy nations, with less than one percent going to low-income countries. About 60 percent of the world’s wealthiest population has been fully vaccinated, while only a paltry 4.4 percent of Africa’s population has been vaccinated”, he stated.

Minister Tweah who is also the Country’s Governor to the International Monetary Fund(IMF) said Africa needs 470 million doses of vaccines to reach the World Health Organization’s target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the African population by end 2021. To date, Africa has received about 207 million doses, which is 44 percent of what is needed to achieve the 40 percent target.  He noted that however, COVAX just slashed delivery to Africa by 150 million doses, with delivery only covering 17 percent of the continent and that the new WHO  target is to have 70 percent of all population across income categories vaccinated by September 2022. “Meeting this target would require an additional supply of 1.5 billion doses, primarily to low and lower middle- income countries, assuming a 2-dose regiment. Sub-Saharan Africa would require additional 775 million doses to achieve this new 70 percent target”, he said.

“Madam Manager Director Distinguished Governors, the above data paints a highly uneven and inequitable picture of disparity for the African continent, but also for the world, since low vaccination rates in Africa hold ramifications for prolonging the pandemic. Until all countries are safe, no country is safe.  This inequity and imbalance also reminds us of pre-COVID-19 international financial dispensation of inequitable flows of resource and investments to the continent of Africa”, he noted.

He said since 1960 the developed nations of the world have provided more than $33.5 trillion in Official Development Assistance and by its very definition, ODA should go to countries in need of development, among whom Sub-Saharan African countries are strong claimants. “Unfortunately, Africa’s share of this ODA since 1960 has been a puzzling and meager   $1. 00 trillion, or 2.9 percent of total ODA flows. This begs the question where has ODA been going over these years, since the flow to Africa has been so minuscule.  Africa’s share of global public private partnerships and of investments in general lie in similar abysmal ranges”, the Minister said.

“Reversing these inequities and imbalances in the flow of global resources more generally and the flow of resources for vaccines more particularly is sine qua non to constructing an equitable post-COVID international financial architecture. This is why African Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund remain united and unanimous in their request for more resources and allocations to deal with the post-COVID-19 challenges, especially in the form of SDR pledges from richer nations”, Minister Tweah noted.

Minister Tweah lamented that beyond the huge economic impact already wrought since the onset of COVID-19, new surges continue to pose significant risks to lives and livelihoods across countries and to impose huge disruptions and costs on global supply chains, further complicating the macroeconomic situations of African countries reeling and recovering from the devastations of the pandemic. Fragile and low-income countries are especially vulnerable. He added that while these disruptive impacts have been projected to last well into the middle of next year, the world has reached the inevitable consensus that COVID-19 is here to stay and that we will have to find a way to coexist with the disease.

“The accepted enabler of this coexistence has been the rapid development, deployment and delivery of vaccines as a public good to the people of our common world, alongside adequate COVID-19 testing.   Effective vaccine delivery that enables countries to reach the World Health Organization’s target for herd immunity is the globally recognized means to sustain economic recovery from the pandemic. Although recovery is underway, it has been uneven and disproportionately slow for low- and most middle- income countries, casting the vaccine program in Africa in a rather dire and exigent relief”, he said.

Minister Tweah ended his speech by putting forward five recommendations among which are Urging vaccine pledgers to expeditiously honor their commitments to channel surplus doses to low-income countries as well as encouraging stronger coordination, transparency, and information sharing globally to demystify the very complex vaccine supply landscape, encouraging the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to expand their lending envelops and boost lending flexibility to ensure countries can have recourse to improve their pandemic response programs, stressing that this could include increased knowledge sharing, advisory support and collaboration with client countries, COVAX Facility and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team(AVATT) to help African countries acquire safe, effective and affordable vaccines on time,to also encourage the Fund to ensure that the proposed resilience sustainability trust can adequately mitigate the funding gaps of Low Income Countries and aid the rebuilding of structural damage due to the pandemic and  encourage richer countries to generally pledge their surplus SDRs for Africa’s transformation and for imparting equity to the global financial landscape. On a per capita income basis, Africa is where Latin America used to be 40 years ago. This is a staggering reality and an unsustainable growth path for the continent. The forces responsible for this are not just economic, Madam Managing Director. Only a significant rebalancing of international resource flows, hedged by necessary risk mitigations and obviously buoyed by responsible leadership and governance from leaders on the continent, that sees Africa as a global strategic partner intermediating trade and political tensions between richer and developed nations, can place the continent on a credible and sustainable path of transformation. Recent SDR reallocations are a good start. Further SDR pledges from richer countries would commence the recognition of this strategic partnership. Some of this SDR re-pledging can even be used to take Africa to the 70 % vaccine target in 2022 so that we are all safe in our one and common world.

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