The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe has highlighted the need for sustained and consistent support to Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) on the African continent.
Addressing an LLDC foreign ministers’ meeting on Thursday, 24 September 2020, Songwe said Africa is home to the majority of the world’s LLDCs which continue to face peculiar trade and development challenges. The challenges are said to arise from their lack of territorial access to the sea and geographical remoteness from international markets, ultimately affecting their quest for economic development.
“LLDCs suffer from lack of competitiveness of both their exports and imports, as well as reduction in the purchasing power of their populations, leaving them worse off in comparison to non-LLDCs,” said Songwe.
She said if ever there was a time when multilateralism was needed, it was now, especially as the dreaded COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head the world over, affecting global supply chains.
“We need multilateralism to provide consistent and sustained support for the LLDCs. They have more special needs than non-LLDCs,” Songwe claimed, adding that COVID-19 had underscored the need for a strengthened multilateralism going forward.
“Africa’s infrastructure deficit, including resultant high costs of logistics, remains a primary constraint to growth. Regarding energy infrastructure, for example, only 30 percent of people living in the African LLDCs had access to electricity in 2017, lagging behind all LLDCs and the world,” she said.
The ECA Executive Secretary said the poverty headcount ratio was high in African LLDCs, with an average of 55.8 percent, as compared to the average of all non-LLDCs African countries at 8.4 percent.
The average GDP per capita in African LLDCs is 1 506 dollars, while for non-LLDCs African countries, it is 5 208 dollars.
Songwe called for accelerated actions and interventions towards addressing the special challenges associated with being landlocked, in an attempt to ensure that these countries are not left behind. She said COVID-19 compounds showcase the dire realities of African LLDCs, but added that there are also opportunities to build back better after the pandemic.
The ECA Chief said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was key in helping address some of the challenges facing LLDCs, in particular, adding value to products, creating jobs and ensuring peace and security in those countries.
Songwe said leveraging digital technologies would be key in ensuring the integration of LLDCs in global value chains. She also spoke about the importance of the digital ID for the populations of Africa’s LLDCs, gender equality, energy, and education.
For his part, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said the UN stands ready to support landlocked nations in COVID-19 recovery.
He called on landlocked developing countries to implement six key principles for a climate positive recovery; investing in green jobs and sectors, not bailing out polluting industries, ending fossil fuel subsidies, accounting for climate risks and opportunities in all policy and financial decisions, working together, and leaving no one behind.