By Babajide Komolafe
Global leaders at the second edition of United Bank for Africa UBA, African Day Conversations have advocated the speedy implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, while emphasizing the need for meaningful collaborations between governments 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 and 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 Programme, 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.
Time to deal with the situation
“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 collaborative effort by governments and organizations to fight the pandemic globally,” he said.
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. Africa requires 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 in an attempt to stem the sufferings brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In Liberia we have taken measures to ease the financial burden on vulnerable businesses 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, Senator Chris Coons, said: “It is important to take a moment to look at how African leaders have reacted to the pandemic. In order 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 recognise the power of collective collaboration on the continent.
While pointing out that the pandemic presents 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.
Swift implementation of the AfCFTA
He called for the swift implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, agreement, adding, “the priority of governments should be to make sure that the AfCFTA gets implemented without delay. If there was any doubt about the importance of that agreement, this pandemic has told us that this is the way to go.