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South African leader backs UN stimulus package for continent to prevent collapse

A South African leader who inspected IRA arms at a key moment in Northern Ireland's peace process has backed calls for a stimulus package for the continent's nations as their economies struggle during the pandemic.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said in a recent speech that the pandemic "will reverse the gains that many countries have made in recent years".

Several African nations have been among the fastest-growing in the world.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spoken of an "existential threat" to Africa's economies while seeking up to $150bn (£120bn) from G20 nations. A meeting of African finance ministers agreed that the continent needs a stimulus package of up to $100bn (£80bn), including a waiver of up to $44bn (£35.4bn) in interest payments.

The International Monetary Fund on March 25 said it had received requests for emergency financing from close to 20 African countries, with requests from another 10 or more likely to follow.

And a UN official has warned that countries across Africa face a "complete collapse of economies and livelihoods" unless the spread of coronavirus can be controlled. More than half of Africa's 54 countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews, travel bans or other measures in a bid to prevent transmission of the virus.

They range from South Africa, where inequality and crime plague Africa's most developed country, to places like Uganda, where the informal sector accounts for more than 50% of the country's gross domestic product.

The UN's development programme regional director for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa said: "We've been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this.

"The African labour market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place. And with that, of course, all the jobs are gone."

In 2000 Mr Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisaari, a former President of Finland, were appointed to inspect IRA weapons dumps.

Belfast Telegraph