Global leaders discuss how Africa can achieve post-COVID-19 economic recovery

How COVID-19 can reset Africa -- UBA's Tony Elumelu

The African economy will recover quickly from the devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic if there is a meaningful collaboration between governments and the private sector, some global leaders said on Monday.

The leaders, who stated this, include the Liberian President, George Weah; U.S. senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Africa, Chris Coons; the President/Chairman, Board of Directors, African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Benedict Oramah; and President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer.

Others include the Founder, Africa CEO Forum, Amir Yahmed; the Secretary-General, African Caribbean & Pacific Group of States (ACP), George Chikoti; Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, and the Chairman, UBA Plc, Tony Elumelu.

They spoke at the second United Bank for Africa (UBA) African Day Conversations on the theme, “Growth, Jobs, and Sustainable Development Amidst a Global Pandemic.”

Mr Elumelu, who is also the Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation, moderated the event.

Need for collective action

Mr Elumelu said the global economic crisis as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has brought the ideal time for collective action to rebuild Africa.

“This is not the time for finger-pointing, but for collaborative effort by governments and private organisations to fight the pandemic globally.

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“All hands must be on deck if the African continent is to recover quickly from the pandemic. There is need for global co-operation to flatten the curve of the pandemic and stem the global economic depression. Africa requires large stimulus packages and long-term solutions to prevent a cycle of debt,” Mr Elumelu said.

President Weah highlighted how collaborations between his government and the private sector helped to stem the sufferings brought by the coronavirus pandemic on Liberians.

“In Liberia, we have taken measures to ease the financial burden on vulnerable businesses in the informal sector by providing small loan assistance to small and medium enterprises and traders.

“In addition, we are working with commercial banks to manage the repayment of loans as well as to create stimulus packages for citizens,” he said.

The U.S. Senator, Mr Coons, stressed the need to invest in debt relief, infrastructure and human development.

He said with the current experience under COVID-19, there is no time to look backwards, but to recognise the power of collective collaboration on the continent.

The pandemic, the lawmaker said, presents an opportunity for Africa to be independent and promote its growth and development as a people without looking for external aid.

Africa must act independent

The President of AFREXIMBANK, Mr Oramah, said COVID-19 has taught Africa that there would come a time when a people must fend for themselves.

Mr Oramah said African governments must swiftly implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

“The pandemic has shown so many weaknesses we have across our continent. We know that hunger is looming if we do not do anything. If we allow hunger to take over from the COVID 19 pandemic, we will begin to see political problems filling in.

“For Africa, the problems go beyond health challenges to other areas such as food supply. Hunger is looming and if action is not taken, Africa will see political problem. Africa has become the epicentre of the economic devastation that this pandemic has unleashed upon us,” he said.

On its part, he said AFREXIMBANK has made available about $200 million to facilitate the supply of fertiliser to farmers and grains across Africa.

He warned that if Africa allows hunger to take over its people, the insecurity that would come as a result would take a long time to overcome.

Mr Chikoti of ACP said the task of economic recovery to lift the burden of the pandemic on the continent rests on both the government and the private sector.

He said African governments must accept the support of the private sector in alleviating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

He said the ACP released $114.5million to member states to help them cushion the impact of COVID-19, particularly to boost agricultural activity and productivity.

Digital connectivity crucial

The UNDP Administrator, Mr Steiner said digital connectivity was a crucial opportunity to connect schools and improve healthcare delivery.

“Digital connectivity is very crucial to connect schools to the internet to address inequality. The virus has put a spotlight on Africa’s healthcare system. Africa needs to look at intermediate strategies like micro-insurance to ramp up this sector, as poor healthcare can make a large percentage of the population fall into extreme poverty,” he said.

President, ICRC, Peter Maurer, said people should look at the pandemics as part of a broader health system which needs stabilisation.

He said vulnerable populations in Africa have been infected by the virus, adding that the pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in health, water, sanitation and social systems, which require heavy investments.

Mr Yahmed said the crisis has shown that Africans need to move away from the commodity-driven model which has failed in creating prosperity.

He said the pandemic is a wake-up call for Africa to embrace self-reliance and ensure new streams of revenue are created

“We need to use this crisis to take Africa to the next level. This crisis is going to be a super accelerator of already existing trends. We need to invest in digital infrastructure, digital education, and agriculture as new opportunities,” Mr Yahmed said.