International Economic Forum on Africa, 22 February 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 22 February 2021

I am delighted to participate in the 20th edition of the International Economic Forum on Africa, with so many distinguished Leaders from African states.

Africa is diversity. And this Forum is an exceptional occasion to make the most of that diversity, to learn from it, to make it flourish, for the benefit of the Continent, but also for the benefit of the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global economic recession are hitting African countries hard, with a terrible human cost. Worldwide, there have been over 109 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which over 2.4 million deaths reported to WHO. As it happens in every country, it is the most vulnerable that are bearing the brunt of this pandemic.

OECD estimates suggest that the global economy contracted by 4.2% in 2020. Africa’s regional GDP contracted by 3%. Still, this is the worst performance on record for the continent. Over the course of 2020, 41 African economies experienced a decline in their GDP, compared to 11 during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Africa is facing the crisis with lower financial resources compared to 2008. Before the pandemic, domestic revenues per capita had already gone down by 18% over the 2010‑18 period, and could contract by a further 10% in 2020 in at least 22 African economies.

Latest estimates show that Africa’s total national savings could have dropped by 18% in 2020, remittances by 9% and foreign direct investment (FDI) by a staggering 40%. Official development assistance from Africa’s partners will not be enough to offset these contractions.

Beyond the significant economic recession, we must not neglect pre-existing emergencies in the continent, including the enduring food and nutrition crisis and security concerns afflicting Sub-Saharan Africa. These were exacerbated by the pandemic, and will inevitably feed from it. This is high time for bold, ambitious and coordinated action.

Most African economies have no choice but to find new fiscal space and investment to drive the continent’s economic and social recovery. Let me briefly outline three key steps, which will be crucial to achieve these goals:

  • First, we should use every policy lever to kick-start a new, more inclusive and sustainable growth cycle, with the African Continental Free Trade Area as a platform. Our joint report with the African Union Commission, Africa’s Development Dynamics 2021, explains that one way forward is to spread the benefits of digitalisation to all economic sectors.
  • Second, we must find ways to better mobilise domestic resources. Our latest report with the African Union Commission, and the Africa Tax Administration Forum, Revenue Statistics Africa, shows that tax revenue had stagnated at 16.8% of GDP for 30 countries between 2014 and 2018. This is well below the 22.8% average of Latin America and 34.2% in OECD countries. To improve taxation, greater efforts will be needed to tackle illicit financial flows and strengthen debt management. Moreover, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS offers a platform for African governments to play an active role in reforming international taxation.
  • Third, we must accelerate the diversification of all African economies. This will make them more resilient and more productive, less dependent on global commodity markets, it will also strengthen health systems. To that end, I welcome the progress we have made since our 2019 Forum in Madrid, with the establishment of the African Union-OECD joint platform to promote investment for productive transformation in Africa.

Dear friends,

The end of the pandemic and the global economic recovery can become a mirage if they do not include the African nations.

This is why international co-operation is now so important; this is why more than ever we need to reimagine and revamp development aid; this is why it is crucial to come together to help Africa and learn from Africa.

Count on the OECD!

Thank you.


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