Brazzaville, Congo, March 3, 2021 (ECA) - Poverty and inequalities remain a major challenge in Africa raising the need for all stakeholders to do more to address widening disparities that have worsened due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, participants to a parallel meeting at the 7th Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) agreed Wednesday.
Deeply entrenched anomalies and inequalities in most African countries require sound policies to promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity, they agreed as they called on governments to do more to lessen inequities to reduce poverty, especially during this global Decade of Action.
Bearing the brunt more are women, youth and vulnerable populations including refugees, migrants, indigenous people, older persons, the disabled and children. Many said inequalities were widening in their countries with a small portion of the continent’s population getting richer as the ranks of the poor kept growing.
Solutions, they agreed, include improving regulation, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest; facilitating safe migration and mobility of people as a key to bridging the widening divide.
During the parallel session focusing on SDG 10 on “Reduced Inequalities”, participants agreed there were linkages to SDG 1 on “No Poverty”, SDG 2 on “Zero Hunger”, SDG 3 on “Good Health and Well-being”, SDG 4 on “Quality Education”, SDG 5 on “Gender Equality”, SDG 8 on “Decent Work and Economic Growth” and also Aspiration 1 of African Union’s Agenda 2063 which calls for “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”.
In a presentation, Ms. Phumza Manqindi, Migration Policy and Liaison Officer with IOM Ethiopia, noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offered African an opportunity to increase returns from remittances. She said governments need to encourage the free movement of persons within the continent.
In Africa, women participation and representation remained a key challenge with most women lacking access to equal opportunities as opposed to their male counterparts. Rwanda is the exception with over half of its parliamentary seats held by women.
Mr. Mabingue Ngom, Regional Director for UNFPA West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO), for his part highlighted the challenges heightened by crisis situations. He noted the Sahel region where the majority of poor children were out of school due to security issues. Education, health, security and climate change were key areas that need to be addressed to ensure reduced inequalities, said Mr. Ngom.
The UNHCR promotes inclusivity and forges partnerships in this regard with the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) seeking to address inequalities, said Mr. Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's representative to the AU, for his part.
The UNHCR also supports economies which host refugees, he said, adding the UN agency had invested in initiatives to collect data, for example through the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement. Mr. Chanda emphasized the need for partnership to work towards poverty reduction, especially now through COVID-19 response strategies.
Participants also rallied behind the call for Africa to produce her own COVID-19 vaccines. The continent was called on to invest in policies that will shore up its health and economic sectors and invest in interdisciplinary research for inclusive development. Africa also needs to close the technological gap, the participants agreed, adding the pandemic had brought to the fore glaring rural-urban digital capabilities gaps.
Participants called on governments to reduce taxes levied on mobile money transfers; push for digitization and reducing inequalities that arise from lack of access to water, in particular.
They were agreed that despite all the challenges the continent is facing, there was an opportunity in it all for Africa to build back and forward better and recover from the pandemic. Africa has a booming young population, increasing connectivity through transport and communications and increasing freedom of movement within regional blocs, which offer a comparative advantage as the continent continues to tackle COVID-19 and remain on track to reduce inequalities.
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