As the spread of Covid-19 across Africa grows, there are concerns that the continent may suffer great economic losses unless interventions aimed at mitigating impacts of the pandemic are launched across the board. This was behind the ongoing disbursement of millions of dollars from the African Development Bank of multi-country grant for COVID-19 response in Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone and also Ghana. The grant from the African Development Fund (ADF) aims to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in The Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, known collectively as the GLS countries – by providing budget support to help fund each country’s COVID-19 crisis response.
The multi-country grant comprises an ADF grant of UA 5 million and a TSF grant of UA 5 million to the Republic of The Gambia; an ADF grant of UA 10.15 million to the Republic of Liberia; and an ADF grant of UA 18 million to the Republic of Sierra Leone. Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone are countries in “transition,” with similar challenges regarding macroeconomic stability, fragility, competitiveness and growth. Liberia and Sierra Leone were severely impacted by the Ebola pandemic between 2014 and 2016, while The Gambia is undergoing a transition after the departure of President Yahya Jammeh in 2016.
Upon declaration of the first cases of COVID-19 in the three countries in March, they took urgent steps to put in place contingency plans to prevent and contain the virus. However, infection cases have been on the rise. As of 22 July, there were 146 confirmed cases in The Gambia; 1,114 cases in Liberia; and 1,731 cases in Sierra Leone. The direct beneficiaries of programmes financed by the grant will include vulnerable female-headed households, orphans, and school-going children. The business community, and targeted small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, will benefit from economic resilience support, while the population at large will be cushioned against the effects of the pandemic.
The multi-country grant falls under the framework of the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility of up to $10 billion, the institution’s main channel to cushion African countries from the economic and health impacts of the crisis.
Ghana on the other hand got $69 million grant to help upgrade the capacity of healthcare facilities to isolate, diagnose and care for patients, and provide more test kits, pharmaceuticals, equipment and beds. The grant from the ADF, the concessional arm of the African Development Bank will provide fiscal budget support to finance the government’s national COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, and Coronavirus Alleviation Program.
Specifically, the funds will help to upgrade the capacity of healthcare facilities to isolate, diagnose and care for patients, and provide more test kits, pharmaceuticals, equipment and beds. It will also ensure adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and support financial incentives and an insurance package for health and allied professionals.
Ghana ranks fourth in COVID-19 infections in Africa after South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. As of 24 July 2020, the West African nation has recorded 30,366 cases of the disease, with 26,687 recoveries and 153 deaths. “Overall, the objective is to help contain the spread of the virus, expand testing and ease the impact of the virus on social and economic life, through measures aimed at protecting jobs, sustaining livelihoods and supporting small businesses,” said Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, the Bank’s Director General for West Africa.
The ADF grant is a Crisis Response Budget Support operation, disbursable in a single tranche under the Bank’s $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility. The grant aligns with one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities, namely to “Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa”.
Under Ghana’s COVID-19 response program, all affected persons will receive free treatment and free water supply. Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) will benefit from a soft loan scheme with one-year moratorium and two-year repayment period. The private sector will also benefit from a tax freeze and refund, direct subsidies and a guarantee fund, enabling businesses to access bank credit.
The program also aims to increase the percentage of the population tested from one percent to three percent by the end of December 2020, boost the number of points of entry reporting suspected cases of COVID-19 from 1 to 14 by the end of September 2020, and increase designated treatment centers with adequate intensive care facilities to 100% by end December 2020. As elsewhere, the pandemic has slowed down economic activity in the agriculture, industrial and services sectors. The agriculture sector, in particular, will likely record a lower performance since the disease has coincided with the onset of Ghana’s farming season.
The economy of Ghana, which exports gold, cocoa and oil, is negatively affected by a significant increase in public spending due to COVID-19. Real GDP growth is projected at 2.1% in 2020 compared to 6.1% in 2019, while the current account deficit is forecast to widen to 3.6% compared to 3% in 2019, due to a decline in export earnings and lower tourism revenues and remittances. The COVID-19 pandemic could also deepen inequalities between men and women, with far-reaching health, social, and economic implications, Bank officials noted.
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