Kampala, Uganda | Isaac Khisa | Coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the entire world presents an opportunity to reset the African continent so that the African population can be empowered to become more productive and self-reliant, according to the United Bank for Africa Plc. Chairman and Founder, Tony Elumelu.
Elumelu, who spoke during a virtual round table discussion organized by the New York Forum Institute on May 22 dubbed ‘Resilient World: An African call for a new world order,’ said while Africa as a continent has all it takes to emerge into a strong digital economy, there’s need for a martial plan that will galvanize the entire continent and make Africa less dependent on the ‘circularity of debt’ from developed nations.
“I feel that as we engage the rest of the world in providing relief, we need to look for a more fundamental solution to Africa’s challenges,” he said.
“I have often argued for a martial plan overtime. We need to mobilise everyone. If we have a martial plan that mobilises resources to address particular issues, then we can mitigate against this constant begging for assistance.
“The truth is that we have resources to help mobilise people. As the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we committed to endow $100m to support young African entrepreneurs and we have been seeing the positive results this has yielded so far,” he added.
He said it is evident that if African countries can fix access to electricity, ensure stability of the macro- economic environment, ensure prioritisation of the youth, empower our small and medium scale enterprises and fix youth migration, then the continent will have a better and more resilient economy.
“There is the urgent need to prioritise our youths and empower our SMEs. The people who work hard need to be encouraged,” Elumelu said.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, last December and rapid spreading to the rest of the world, many countries including many in Africa have taken various measures including closing of schools, all ports of entry as well as banned public gatherings and public transport to contain its spread.
So far, African countries have recorded 99,062 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May, 22, according to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Out of this, some 3,082 people have died across the continent due to COVID-19 induced complications while 39,085 patients have recovered.
Tidjane Thiam, a Covid-19 Special Envoy responsible for mobilising international economic support for Africa, concurred with Elumelu, adding that rather than depend on international assistance at every point, there is need for governments and institutions to invest in activities that will prioritise youths and create a better enabling environment.
“I totally agree with Tony Elumelu. The major challenge is that we do not see enough entrepreneurs. Similar to what (we) obtains in Asia and Europe, there is the need to promote a class of Entrepreneurs to drive the African economy. We need to groom more Tony Elumelus’ from Africa,” he said.
‘We know what needs to be done. We need government and multinational institutions to bring in capital so that there’s investment in health, infrastructure and the like. We do need to get rid of this debt cycle because constant rescheduling and begging for relief for debts is not good for us as a continent,” Thiam added.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala, Special Envoy of the African Union on Covid-19, on her part, called for a system where youths and women will be empowered to create and produce more to boost the African economy.
“We can see this pandemic as an opportunity for the continent. We have the African Free Trade Agreement, and we have to make it real,” she said.
“We have to specialise our countries to manufacture the things we need so we can trade with others.”
Others who attended the high level round table discussion included; President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire; President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Julius Bio of Sierra Leone.