Leading global businessmen and African presidents have urged policymakers in Africa to look inwards and adopt measures to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive after the COVID-19 pandemic.Speaking as panelists at the UBA Web discussion to mark the Africa Day on Monday, they said that it was vital to rebuild the African economy that has been damaged by coronavirus.
In his speech on the theme: “Growth, Jobs, and Sustainable Development Amidst a global Pandemic”, the Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu, called for job creation and empowerment of youths in Africa,
Elumelu, who is also the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, 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 also forge a better situation for everyone, acting again collectively. “This is not the time for finger-pointing, but for a collaborative effort by governments and organisations to fight the pandemic globally.”
The report by Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper on Tuesday said that Elumelu, who was the moderator of the Panel discussion, also called for cooperation among stakeholders if Africa is to have a quick recovery from the pandemic.
“There is a need to flatten the curve, we need global co-operation to stem global depression. Africa requires a large stimulus package and we need long-term solutions to prevent a cycle of debt,” he added.
In his contribution, the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah, who was also one of the panelists, said that Africa should leverage the opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provided to facilitate trade and economic growth in the region.
“The pandemic has taught us that there comes a time when every group of people fends for themselves and there comes a time when you must be independent. I hope that the message that this pandemic is teaching us about independence will help us to integrate our continent better so that we will trade better, invest among ourselves better and promote our growth and development as a people without always looking out for others to bail us out.
“The pandemic has shown so many weaknesses we have across our continent, not only from the point of view of infrastructure, but from the appropriate economic policies that would help drive growth and also help manage events of the kind we are experiencing today,” he added.
He noted that many African countries were not prepared for the shock that came with the pandemic and stated that “the priority for our governments should be to make sure that the AfCFTA gets implemented without delay. If there was any doubt about the importance of that agreement that our leaders so courageously put in place about two years ago, this COVID-19 pandemic has told us that this is the way to go”.
According to him, building a sustainable supply chain within the continent is pertinent.
“We have to put away all reservations we have so we can build supply chains across Africa. This is the only way we can begin to foster dynamic growth in our continent.
“If we do not do that, we would remain perpetual commodity exporters and we have seen what perpetual commodity exporters suffer when we have events like this as oil prices have crashed and there was no market for it.
“At the same time, companies and countries were looking for medicals and pharmaceutical supplies and we did not have the infrastructure to produce them as well as the capacity and we were waiting to be supplied from outside. And the supply chains were all disrupted.
“So, the AfCFTA is the answer and we must waste no time and use this opportunity to overcome whatever challenges that we may have at our country level and even collectively as a continent.
“When we start with it, we would be able to build the health infrastructure, manufacturing base, physical infrastructure that would connect so that when we are confronted with events like this, we would be able to handle them.
“Another thing we need to do is to build a domestic capital market. Today, we have 55 countries, the stock exchanges are fragmented, not liquid and quite small, many economies do not have strong financial systems and I have never seen any continent that developed without a strong financial system,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, the United States Senator, Chris Coons, said that collaboration among the countries in Africa would aid economic recovery.
“I look forward to the future of Africa and its development. Before the pandemic, we have supported strong and significant investments to unlock the potential of Africa and to provide for more robust growth and foster partnership.
“It is important first to look at the rate in which African leaders have responded well and quickly and so far the response has gone fairly well.
“I am encouraged by the progress by the AfCFTA, by the ways in which the African Union emerged from Ebola stronger and I support the multilateral institutions that we would need in order for all of us to prevent future pandemics and to recover from this one.
“As the world’s youngest continent, there are ways that we can partner to invest in and create excitement among African youths,” he added.
He stressed the need for entrepreneurial development in the continent.
Some of the panelists included President of Senegal, Mr. Macky Sall; President of Liberia, Mr. George Weah; United States Senator, Mr. Chris Coons; President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr. Peter Maurer; President and Founder, Africa CEO Forum, Amir Ben Yahmed; Donald Kaberuka, former President of the AfDB.