Participants at the United Bank for Africa’s (UBA) 2020 Africa Day Conversations have stressed the need in rebuilding the African economy that has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
The participants, including business leaders and African presidents stressed the need for policymakers in the continent to look inward and adopt measures to create enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
The Conversation which was moderated by the Chairman of UBA, Mr. Tony Elumelu, had as its theme, “Growth, Jobs, and Sustainable Development Amidst a global Pandemic”.
Opening the discussion, Elumelu stressed the need for job creation and empowerment of youths in Africa.
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 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.”
“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.
The President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah, a member of the panellists, said Africa must 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 said many African countries were not prepared for the shock that came with the pandemic.
“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,” he stated.
He said building a sustainable supply chain within the continent was pertinent.
Oramah said: “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 or 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.”
In his contribution, Coons said collaboration among the countries in Africa would aide 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.