International cooperation can address COVID-19 challenges, says African Development Bank Vice President Khaled Sherif

Representatives of the private sector, capital markets, government and multilateral institutions took part on Wednesday in a UN virtual seminar to promote long term investment in sustainable development, with a call for an international effort to address the COVID-19 crisis and keep the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on track.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, under the auspices of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance (GISD), organized the panel discussion titled Building back better – Finance and development leaders in joint action.

In opening remarks, Oliver Bäte, the CEO of German insurer Allianz, who is also a GISD co-chair, used an analogy to explain the responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable. “When you are in an aeroplane and oxygen is sucked out of the aeroplane, you get some very good advice. Put an oxygen mask on your own nose first before you start helping others, but don’t forget to help the others.”

His fellow co-chair Leila Fourie, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange called on governments to seize “a unique opportunity to steer the long-term trajectory of the economic recovery. They have the opportunity to use their social voice for good and to align these stimulus efforts with the SDGS.”   

The multi-segment conference included panels on the transition from COVID-19 mitigation to recovery; the role GISD can play in a sustainable recovery; and the future of partnerships between development actors and the private sector.

In a panel devoted to the impact of COVID-19 on financing for sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda, Khaled Sherif, African Development Bank Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery  joined  IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Monsio Sayeh, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships Mari Pangestu, Concord Europe Director Tanya Cox and Åsa Regnér, UN Women Assistant Secretary-General.

“Africa was the home of the six fastest growing economies, with GDP annual growth of about 3.4%,” Sherif said. “We’re now looking at Africa growing at -1.7% this fiscal year at current trends.”

The Vice President expressed caution about media reports on the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in sub-Saharan Africa, pointing to gaps in testing and reporting, and offered details about the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility of up to $10 billion and the $3 billion social bond it issued in early April. “It is the objective of the African Development Bank to help all of our 54 regional member countries address the challenges they are seeing today, put in place the necessary safety nets, and make sure we help all of these economies recover, and that we don’t see a debt crisis and credit downgrades across our regional member countries.”

He expressed optimism that African countries, having fought off Ebola, would adapt to this new threat and that the Bank would be part of an effective and unified multilateral crisis response.

Sayeh of the IMF acknowledged the urgency of the situation. “Never before in our history have we done so much, so fast,” she said. “We have already approved and disbursed financing for 60 countries.” The IMF is working with countries around the world to address liquidity, cash management and other financial and fiscal issues sparked by the pandemic and its effects. Sayeh emphasized that the urgency of countries’ financing needs would not lead the IMF to overlook transparency and good governance in its lending.

The GISD Alliance, convened by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, is made up of 30 recognized leaders of major global financial institutions and corporations, with a goal to take action and find solutions for long-term financial investment for sustainable development.

With 10 years left to delivery of the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we are entering a Decade of Action to step up the efforts. Welcome to a virtual call to action, with finance and development leaders in joint action for a more equitable and sustainable world.

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