Global leaders at the second edition of United Bank for Africa (UBA) African Day Conversations, have emphasised the need for meaningful collaborations betweengovernments and the private sector as a panacea for the quick recovery of the economy of the African continent post Covid-19.
The leaders which included the President of Liberia, H.E George Weah; United States Senator Chris Coons; the President & Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Professor Benedict Okey Oramah; President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer; President spoke on Monday at the virtual Leadership Panel which was moderated by the Chairman, UBA Plc, Tony Elumelu.
Other leading voices who made up the panel were the Founder, Africa CEO Forum,Amir Ben Yahmed; the Secretary-General of the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), H.E George Chikoti; Administrator, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Achim Steiner and Donald Kaberuka. While moderating, Elumelu, who is also the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, spoke on the need to mobilise everyone and explained the necessity to discover a more fundamental solution to Africa’s challenges through collaborative efforts.
“This is the time for us to deal with the situation we have and forge a better situation for everyone, acting again collectively,” he said. “This is not the time for finger pointing but for collaborative effort by governments and organizations to fight the pandemic globally.”
Continuing, Elumelu pointed out that all hands must be on deck if the African continent is to have a quick recovery from the pandemic, adding “There is need to flatten the curve, we need global co-operation to stem global depression. Africarequires a large stimulus package, and we need long-term solutions to prevent a cycle of debt.”
In his submission, the Liberian President, George Weah, established how collaborations worked in his government to stem the sufferings brought about the coronavirus pandemic. “In Liberia, we have taken measures to ease the financial burden on vulnerable business in the informal sector by providing small loan assistance to SMEs 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.”
On his part, US, Senator Chris Coons, said, “It is important to take a moment to look at how African leaders have reacted to the pandemic. For us to recover from this pandemic, we must develop a vaccine that is free and affordable and freely distributed so that full economic activities can return. There are ways we can invest in debt relief, invest in infrastructure and human development. This is no time to be looking backwards. We recognize the power of collective collaboration on the continent.
While pointing out that the pandemic poses an opportunity for Africa to be independent and promote its growth and development as a people without external help; Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah, on his part, said COVID 19 has taught Africa that there comes a time when every group of people will fend for themselves. He called for the swift implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, adding, “The priority of government should be to make sure that the AfCFTA gets implemented without delay.
Continuing, Oramah said, “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 problems. Africa has become the epicenter of the economic devastation that this pandemic has unleashed upon us.” While disclosing that Afrexim has made available $200million to supply fertilizers and grains amongst others across Africa, the Afrexim boss added that “If Africa allows hunger takeover the people, it will see an increase in insecurity, which will take a long time to overcome.”
George Chikoti of ACP, said that the huge task of economic recovery on the continent, rests on both the government and the private sector. “The responsibility of COVID-19 does not rest on the government alone, the private sector needs to play a big role in lifting the burden of the pandemic. African governments need to accept the support of the Private Sector in alleviating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa,” he said.
Achim Steiner of the UNDP noted that Digital connectivity is very essential as it is a crucial opportunity to connect all schools across the continent, adding that emphasis on Healthcare is also very important. “Digital connectivity is very crucial to connect schools to the internet. We need to address inequality; also, 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. Healthcare can make a large percentage of the occupation fall into extreme poverty.
Peter Maurer, President, ICRC, said there is the need to look at pandemics as part of a broader health system which needs stabilisation; Throwing more light on this, Maurer said, “Two things need to follow after live saving during the pandemic. First, the pandemic has illustrated the weak situation of health, water and food systems and we need to heavily invest both by the public and private sectors to stabilize the health sector. Secondly, investment has always gone into the more developed parts of Africa and not the fragile parts. We need Private Public Partnerships and investments by multi-corporate institutions to develop these areas’ he noted.
Amir Yahmed said the crisis is going to be a super accelerator of already existing trends. “We have to get away from the commodity driven model which has failed in creating prosperity. Secondly, self-reliance should be one of the major objectives. The pandemic is wake up call for Africa – Creating new streams of revenue and self- reliance by the African continent”
Donald Kaberuka on his part opined that “What we need (for this crisis) is something unusual, it is not business as usual. It is not marginal action, it is radical action.”
A second panel continued that brought together guests from all over Africa. The theme ‘SDGs and African Development at the crossroads’, the panelist all highlighted their views on taking Africa to the next level after the covid-19 pandemic.
In the different interventions, it was stood out that the present situation haspresented a big opportunity. Cameroon was represented by Roland Kwemain aleadership coach/trainer chairman of the Go Ahead Africa Ltd.
As a pan-African bank currently operating in twenty African countries, UBA organized this high-level virtual panel session, to also highlight the lessons the world can learn from Africa, address the socio-economic risks, and highlight visions for the world post-health crisis. Since its establishment, the UBA Conversation which is held during the global celebration of African Liberation Day, has sparked meaningful conversations about how Africa can better partner with the rest of the world to empower businesses and individuals on the continent.
Entrepreneurs and individuals on the African Continent and the world at large look forward to this event every year for these stimulating discussions which helps to reposition Africa to the rest of the world.