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Covid and climate pandemics offer ray of hope

By Musalia Mudavadi | June 6th 2021
People take part in a 'Fridays for Future' protest outside the Austrian Economic Chamber, in Vienna, Austria, May 14, 2021. [Reuters, Lisi Niesner]

Virtually all major regions of the world have been affected by the twin global disasters of Covid-19 and climate change.

The two pandemics are pushing people and world economies to the edge. Both crises have forced us to change our behaviour, habits and lifestyles at personal, household, community, and national levels.

With over three million people worldwide dead from the virus in the past 12 months, many more have been exposed to acute socio-economic vulnerability due to the rapidly changing climate. 

As we look to rebuild our economies and ways of life, we have a rare opportunity to ensure we build back better. Business as usual will keep us off the 1.5°C planet-warming target aimed to avoid a catastrophic warming of the earth. 

Covid-19 has undermined the poverty reduction progress achieved in the last two decades. It continues to threaten the state of our economy, including the crisis of sovereign debt, which has far- reaching implications on our fiscal and monetary policy.

Here are a few critical actions we can collectively take to seize this moment and get the world to build back better, and greener.

First, we need to create robust support programmes for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that can get people back to work and create green jobs. 

Second, we should use all available avenues to redress the sovereign and commercial debt burden on Kenya and African countries to free up the fiscal capabilities to finance post-Covid rebuilding.

Addressing macroeconomic and governance challenges to sustain momentum for raising revenue locally is vital to progressing our development and building pan-African political solidarity.

Debt relief will be one of the major items on the agenda at this summer’s G7 meeting.

Third, since over 60 per cent of our population are young and urbanised, focusing on solutions for women and youth is important, especially with regard to labour markets. Women and youth are more vulnerable.

There is, therefore, a need to maximise retooling and reskilling for social and work protections to address their vulnerabilities. 

Finally, national and county assemblies could do more to improve policy frameworks to create people-centred budgets. These budgets should improve the quality of growth and impact of climate action on communities.

These should also seek to build resilient communities that can absorb the shocks and pandemics of the future. 

In conclusion, it is not in doubt that Covid-19 has worsened the impact of climate change in Africa. Even before the onset of the pandemic, much of Africa was suffering from widespread impacts of climate change, such as flooding, cyclones, sea-level rise, displacement of communities, drought, and crop failure.

Covid-19 has exacerbated these climate vulnerabilities by decreasing our ability to adapt and the resources available to fight climate change. We need to be more innovative in our approach in the delivery of our post-pandemic recovery.

 - The writer is the Amani National Congress party leader, former vice president and finance minister.

Covid 19 Time Series


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