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Accelerated action for African LLDCs and LDCs needed to achieve sustainable development

1 March, 2024
Accelerated action for African LLDCs and LDCs needed to achieve sustainable development

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, 1 March 2024 (ECA) – Multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the current geopolitical and global macroeconomic situation have resulted in poor economic progress and exacerbated the structural challenges of African Landlocked Least Developed Countries (LLDCs), putting them off track in meeting the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs (VPoA). This, according to experts meeting ahead of the March 4-5 ministerial segment of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, “requires accelerated action for them to achieve sustainable development.”

While African LLDCs had made some notable progress in registering milder GDP contraction, “they were off the mark in reaching the goals set out in the VPoA,” said ECA Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division, Stephen Karingi in his presentation on the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014–2024.

Africa’s LLDCs contend with many development challenges due to their lack of direct territorial access to the sea, remoteness and distance from world markets. They face higher trade costs than their transit neighbours, limited infrastructure, undiversified economies and export markets.

LLDCs fared poorly in health delivery, real GDP growth and infrastructural development.

“Africa’s infrastructure deficit is a major obstacle to the development of LLDCs,” said Mr. Karingi, adding that, “Africa faces a financial gap of between $68-108 billion.”

The VPoA is a major international development compact agreed in 2014 to promote the development of Landlocked Developing Countries over a decade ending in 2024. There are 16 landlocked developing countries in Africa. Thirteen are still categorized as least developed countries and no landlocked developing country in Africa has graduated from least developed country status in the past decade.

On the trade front, African LLDCs had low trade in services between 2014 and 2022. They accounted for only 0.2 percent of global services exports and 0.4 of global service imports while the trade balance between African LLDCS remained negative within the same period.

It was recommended that the ECA should support LLDCs in implementing international and regional agreements such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the World Trade Facilitation Agreement. Furthermore, the ECA is requested to development institutions to catalyze investment for transport infrastructure, renewable energy, ICTs and regional integration, while advancing structural economic transformation focused on value addition.

Member countries raised concerns on the loss of flexibility that the LDC status provides when they graduate and the high transport costs and poor air connectivity across Africa.

“It is not possible to minimize the cost of transport using aviation. The AfCFTA puts transport as one of the service sectors that need to be included in the liberalization of services and at the same time the single African market is already there for us to be able to implement the services protocol,” Mr. Karingi explained calling for member states to be bold and implement the AfCFTA including the single African air market.

Mr. Karingi said that a new programme for LLDCs is crucial, and it must draw insights from lessons learned from the VPoA and leverage synergies with the Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs to enhance its effectiveness.

The Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, which covers the decade 2022–2031, was adopted in 2022 and focuses on helping LDCS ensure a sustained and inclusive recovery from and greater resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Doha Programme of action set out six key areas for development by LDCs. These include Investing in people in least developed countries, leveraging the power of science, technology, and innovation and supporting structural transformation as a driver of prosperity. In addition, LDCs had to make progress on enhancing international trade of least developed countries and regional integration; addressing climate change, environmental degradation, recovering from COVID-19 pandemic and building resilience against future shocks as well as mobilizing international solidarity, reinvigorated global partnerships and innovative tools and instruments.

In a report on the progress made in Africa in the  implementation of the priority areas of the Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, ECA Director of the Macroeconomics and Governance Division, Adam Elhiraika said most LDCs in Africa had performed poorly in the six key areas outlined in the Doha Programme of Action. 

Of the 45 LDCs in the world, 33 are in Africa and only from 3 African countries have graduated from the LDC status since 1971 which are Cape Verde, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea

“Two additional LDCs could be eligible for graduation while three others will meet the graduation thresholds for the first time, however, the pandemic has set back the performance of at least two other LDCS that were making progress,” said Mr. Elhiraika, adding, “We underscore the importance of the DPoA for safeguarding sustainable development.”

Issued by:
Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826