The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly hosted a two-day workshop in Accra, with a focus on the preparation of a COVID-19 economic recovery and resilience plan for the city to withstand shocks.
Held on 16 and 17 June, the hybrid workshop centered around the economic and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Accra, as part of a wider UN project covering 16 cities around the world.
Cities are the epicenters of the COVID-19 crisis, accounting for 90 per cent of the globally reported cases. African cities are also home to most COVID-19 cases, facing considerable strains to their economy, financial standing and service delivery during the crisis. Underlying deficits in services and infrastructure, revenues and planning capacities rendered African cities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic’s effects. However, African cities are also major hubs of productivity, growth and innovation, making them central to the region’s recovery and building forward better agenda.
Against this backdrop, workshop participants, including Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Finance, the Mayor of Accra, senior officials from national and local government, UN agencies, the private sector, and other stakeholders of Accra, discussed priorities for the drafting of the city’s Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan in the context of the city’s Medium-term Plan 2022-2025 currently underway. Ultimately, the goal of the Plan is to put Accra on a resilient, inclusive and sustainable urban development path, which, in turn, can improve governance, productivity and living standards.
Accra’s Mayor, Hon. Mohammed Nii Adjei-Sowah said: “The [Economic Recovery and Resilience] plan will prepare us for the years to come in becoming more resilient, improving our labour markets, strengthening our services and financial institutions, and enhancing our productivity, particularly of the informal sector.”
Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Finance, Hon. John Kumah, emphasized the need to boost local productivity in food production, digital economy and construction. He pointed out: “To accelerate the resilience of Accra, productivity needs to be enhanced. Significant challenges exist, however, related to the high prevalence of informality.”
Referring to urban vulnerabilities, the UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Mr. Charles Paul Iheanacho Abani stressed that sustainable urbanization, with a focus on persistently disadvantaged groups as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, is crucial for the resilience-building efforts to succeed in Accra. He emphasized the importance of identifying catalytic and transformative policy interventions that will support these efforts.
In a similar vein, and highlighting the collaboration between the UN agencies. the Director of ECA’s sub-regional office for West Africa, Ms. Ngone Diop, underlined that her office is working closely with Ghana and regional economic communities to promote timely and adequate responses to the impacts of COVID-19, particularly on inequality and productivity. She said: “Every challenge comes with an opportunity and structural transformation is an opportunity that Ghana should not miss.”
Echoing Ms. Diop’s words, the Chief of the Urbanization section of the ECA, Ms. Edlam Abera Yemeru emphasized that “cities are engines of economic dynamism and innovation, and can help us overcome development deficits and accelerate recovery from COVID-19 while strengthening future resilience”.
The workshop concluded with a set of defined priorities to strengthen the immediate recovery and longer-term resilience of Accra’s business environment, labour market, economic arrangements, financial arrangements and physical infrastructure. This forms the basis for the drafting of the city’s Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan. Importantly, the deliberations outlined the mechanisms through which the Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan will contribute to Accra’s Medium-term plan 2021-2025.
This workshop feeds into the wider UN Development account project focusing on strengthening the capacities of local governments in 16 cities globally, including three from Africa. The cities were selected on a demand-driven approach to design, implement and monitor sustainable, resilient and inclusive COVID-19 economic and financial responses, recovery and rebuilding plans.
The project assists cities in developing a better understanding of the key factors and drivers of urban resilience. Working with the city authorities, the project supports the identification of solutions that work and contributes to a practical framework for creating more resilient cities and local governments better equipped to withstand shocks such as COVID-19 and other broad-based socio-economic stresses.