Africa’s public and private sector leaders, on Monday, called for tailor-made fundamental solutions to the myriad of problems that have bedeviled the African continent and continue to defy solutions.
Speaking at the second edition of the United Bank for Africa Plc African Day Conversations, they called for meaningful collaborative efforts between governments and the private sector to ensure quick economic recovery of the continent post Covid-19.
Moderating the virtual panel discussion, Tony Elumelu, chairman of UBA Plc, and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, said the continent “requires a large stimulus package, and we need long-term solutions to prevent a cycle of debt”
The time has come, he stressed “for us to deal with the situation we have and also forge a better situation for everyone, acting again collectively.”
All hands, he said, must be on deck for Africa to recovery quickly from the pandemic, beginning with the need to “flatten the curve, we need global co-operation to stem global depression.”
Contributing, Liberian President, George Weah, recalled how collaborations worked in his government’s attempt to stem the sufferings arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including taking measures to ease the financial burden on vulnerable business.
Small loans, he noted was provided for players in the informal sector, mostly SMEs and traders, while the government is in addition, “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, noted that recovery from this pandemic, rquires development of “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 recognise the power of collective collaboration on the continent,” he added.
Arguing 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, believes COVID-19 “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 epicenter of the economic devastation that this pandemic has unleashed upon us,” he warned.
While disclosing that Afrexim has made available $200m to supply fertilizers and grains amongst others across Africa, the Afrexim boss further warned that “If Africa allows hunger take over the people, it will see an increase in insecurity, which will take a long time to overcome.”
For Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), “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 has the ability to make a large percentage of the occupation fall into extreme poverty.
“What we need to look at is to find a way for government as a regulator and also as an investor, to leverage private sector investment into these areas” Steiner said.
Amir Yahmed, the Founder, Africa CEO Forum, 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”
“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. I think it has to be a wake-up call for us to attain goals we haven’t reached. Create new revenues for the economy. We also need to attain self-reliance. Self reliance is an important goal. Africa manufactures [only] 2% of what it produces. We need to use this crisis to take Africa to the next level. Invest in digital infrastructure, digital education, agriculture is another opportunity we need to grab. We need to get the AFCTA working,” Yahmed said.
Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) 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.”