09/16/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/16/2020 12:47
September 16, 2020
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY.
I am honored to join such an esteemed group of leaders, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate President Adesina on his recent reelection.
For the IMF, the topic of climate adaptation is one of great significance. Unless we work everywhere - and especially in the most vulnerable parts of the world - to address climate change and adapt to its consequences, we cannot possibly achieve economic stability, growth, employment and improvements in living standards that are at the heart of our mandate.
And it is with deep conviction that the staff of the IMF are working to integrate climate risks into the way we think about growth, employment, poverty and resilience.
Yesterday, with my colleague the Director of the Africa Department, Mr Abebe Aemro Selassie, I published a blog charting the path for a resilient recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa. And it is focused on integrating resilience into the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
And this is the topic of our discussion today.
In our recent Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, we recommend the three areas of focus: enhancing key infrastructure, investing in people and strengthening coping mechanisms.
So, let me elaborate on those priorities.
First, if we focus on key infrastructure - like irrigation for farmers, flood management systems, storm shelters and climate-smart agriculture - this would underpin growth and a resilient recovery.
There are many examples of resilient infrastructure in Africa. Take Mozambique - in 2019, Cyclone Idai hit the coast and devasted the city of Beira.
Yet, thanks to extensive drainage systems and well-constructed buildings and roads, the most severe flooding was avoided. Beira Port was operational within days of the cyclone.
We must put this lens of resilience on everything we do, and the Global Center on Adaptation Africa will have an important role to play.
Second, invest in people. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that resilience includes strong health systems, strong education, good access to digital technology and decent housing and sanitation. When people are supported, they can withstand a crisis. We ought to recognize that the most important ingredient to resilience to climate shocks is investing in people.
Three, we must strengthen coping mechanisms like social safety nets that create buffers against shocks. And we should look to combine social safety nets with safety ropes help people climb back up - through measures like access to finance and a supportive economy.
We will not make sufficient progress on these priorities unless we come as an international community. For international financial institutions, that means ensuring that finance is available to invest in resilience.
I am proud of the role the IMF has played in this current crisis. We have rapidly increased our support everywhere, but especially for countries that have been hard hit in Africa. Here, we have already delivered over $10 billion of financial support and this ten times more than in an average year. We have provided $200 million in grants as debt relief to create space for countries to support their people.
In the current crisis we face the risk of losing the development gains of the last decades - we cannot let this happen. Actions to avert this will only succeed if we integrate action against the climate crisis into our measures to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
I tell everybody - if you don't like pandemic you are not going to like the climate crisis on iota.
But we can act early, and we can act decisively to build resilient societies.
As the great Nelson Mandela said: 'Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again'.
We are in a more shock-prone world and we ought to invest in support systems in case we fall - so that we can get up and move forward.
Again - thank you - and congratulations on the launch of this new institution for Africa.