Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former minister of education, has accused China and other “rich countries” of worsening the poverty indices in Africa.
In an opinion article first published by the Washington Post on Friday, Ezekwesili, a former vice-president for the Africa region at the World Bank, said the outbreak of COVID-19 has eroded the economic gains made by the continent since the 2008/2009 global crisis.
China, where the novel coronavirus first broke out in December 2019, has been accused of concealing information and wasting time before announcing the possibilities of a pandemic, an allegation the country denied.
Supporting this claim, Ezekwesili said the Asian country “failed to transparently and effectively manage this global catastrophe”.
Explaining that Africa is vulnerable to the crisis owing to its existing poverty status, Ezekwesili said: “It should not suffer even more because yet another powerful country failed to act responsibly.”
“China should immediately announce a complete write-off of the more than $140 billion that its government, banks and contractors extended to countries in Africa between 2000 and 2017. This would provide partial compensation to African countries for the impact that the coronavirus is already having on their economies and people.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe injury to Africa’s development prospects and worsened the conditions of its poor and vulnerable.
“The continent must be accorded damages and liability compensation from China, the rich and powerful country that failed to transparently and effectively manage this global catastrophe. Africa’s economic gains since the last global crisis have been eroded. It is time to make offending rich countries pay the poor ones a global risk burden tax for delaying their rise out of poverty.
“Our world is long overdue for a change of approach in the way it manages global risks that leave the poor worse off due to failures of the rich and powerful.
“The economic shock caused by the coronavirus has badly reduced the opportunity Africa would otherwise have had to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. The African Union Commission estimates that Africa’s gross domestic product will shrink by as much as 4.5 percent, resulting in 20 million job losses.
“This has dangerously hampered the possibility that Africa can generate jobs for young people and women, or increase literacy levels by reducing the number of out-of-school children with access to quality learning opportunities. It will result in lessened ability to reduce maternal and child mortality, improve nutrition and food security, make reliable energy available and accessible, improve the availability of quality roads, water, sanitation, and other infrastructure, and such other investments in public goods.
“Africa faces frequent shocks caused by climate, terrorism, health issues, food insecurity, crime and other sources of risk. Most of these perils emanate from the failures of the rich and powerful economies, but end up inflicting a disproportionate share of the poor and vulnerable.”