Roundup: UNECA chief calls for strong multilateralism platform to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic

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ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, on Thursday emphasized the need to maintain a strong multilateralism platform, with particular emphasis on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on least developing African countries.

The ECA chief made the urgent call during a virtual meeting of the Annual Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), as the ECA highlighted the need for sustained and consistent support to LLDCs on the African continent.

"If ever there was a time when multilateralism was needed, it was now, especially as the dreaded COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head over the world affecting global supply chains," an ECA statement quoted Songwe as saying during the virtual meeting.

"We need multilateralism to provide consistent and sustained support for the LLDCs. They have more special needs than non-LLDCs," said Songwe, adding the COVID-19 had underscored the need for a strengthened multilateralism going forward.

Songwe further stressed that the African continent is home to the majority of the world's LLDCs which continue to face peculiar trade and development challenges arising from their lack of territorial access to the sea and geographical remoteness from international markets.

"Landlocked developing countries suffer from lack of competitiveness of both their exports and imports, as well as the reduction in the purchasing power of their populations, leaving them worse off in comparison to non-LLDCs," Songwe said.

Noting that Africa's infrastructure deficit, including resultant high costs of logistics, remains a primary constraint to growth, Songwe stressed that in the energy infrastructure for example, only 30 percent of people living in the African LLDCs had access to electricity in 2017, lagging behind all LLDCs and the world.

Songwe also called for accelerated actions and interventions towards addressing the special challenges associated with being landlocked to ensure these countries are not left behind.

She said COVID-19 "compounds the dire realities of African LLDCs but added there were also opportunities to build back better after the pandemic."

According to Songwe, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is key in helping address some of the challenges facing LLDCs, adding value to products, creating jobs and ensuring peace and security in those countries.

Noting that leveraging digital technologies would be key in ensuring the integration of LLDCs in global value chains, Songwe also spoke about the importance of the digital ID for the populations of Africa's LLDCs.

The high-level virtual meeting was convened to review progress in the implementation of the Vienna program of action for the landlocked developing countries for the decade 2014-2025 - the landmark development framework to tackle the special circumstances of the landlocked countries and facilitate their integration into the global economy, according to the UNECA.

It also provided an opportunity for ministers and senior government officials to share knowledge, experiences, and suggest recommendations and opportunities for accelerating the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, it was noted. Enditem

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