WEST AFRICA – The African Development Bank has released its updated economic outlook for the West African region noting with concern that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may push the region’s economy to contract by as much as 4.3% in 2020.

The Bank which released its regional economic outlook report in Abuja Nigeria explained that the West Africa region, which was poised to expand by 4.0 percent in 2020 is now projected to contract by -2.0 percent in 2020.

African Development Bank in its economic outlook report further noted that West Africa’s economy could fall by as much as -4.3 percent in a worst-case scenario.

AfDB noted that countries that depend on oil and tourism for foreign exchange and fiscal revenues will especially face reduced fiscal space and heightened external account imbalances, stoking a build-up of public debt.

To address the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic outlook report urged countries in the region to bolster their health care systems and increase funding to train and equip frontline health workers.

The African Development Bank publication noted that, enhancing healthcare preparedness and building early surveillance and preventive mechanisms is crucial in saving lives.

“A coordinated regional approach may be more effective than fragmented country level interventions to avoid the spread of infections across borders,” the report noted.

AfDB also noted that West Africa’s burgeoning youth population offers a strategic workforce which can be harnessed for employment and economic growth, despite a COVID-19 pandemic that is devastating the continent and global economies.

It urged member countries to address the issue of low retention rates especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics related course.

According to the African Development Bank, demand for STEM related skills is increasing and will define the future of work in view of the unfolding technological revolution.

It offered various suggestions to address the shortage for STEM related skills which according to it are necessary for West Africa’s economies post-Covid-19 era.

The Bank’s suggestion include: accelerating improvements in digital infrastructure to meet the increasing demand for digital services; creating incentives for private sector investment in skills development; and scaling up public expenditure in education to enhance skills of the region’s labor market.

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