COVID-19, Ukraine conflict are wake-up call for Africa on food production — Buhari, Adesina 

…say Nigeria spent N1.6trn on stimulus programme

as Gbajabiamila says insecurity, biggest threat to future of Africa’s youths

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, said that the effects of COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine were a wake up call on the Africa continent to collaborate amongst themselves for sustainable food production.

The same position was canvassed by the President of African Development Bank, AfDB, Akuwunmi Adesina.

Both men spoke at first Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliament in Abuja with the theme “Enhancing Africa’s post-covid economic recovery through parliamentary leadership” where the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said that insecurity was becoming a biggest threat to the future of Africa children.

Declaring the even open, President Buhari who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo emphasized the need for the African countries to collaborate for the common cause of achieving self sufficiency in food production.

He said: “We also need to leverage on technology to build stronger systems for the protection of all. Our legislations across the continent must be designed to forge technology and technology innovations. This has been encouraged in Nigeria and since 2015, there are at least seven high tech companies valued at over one billion dollars each. Many of our countries have also seen the rise of some of these kind of companies and some are even licensed in our different countries. But we must look for continent wide legislation that makes the world

“I think it is an important time for the legislature to react to what we are seeing such as phenomenon growth in tech companies and innovations because that is the only way we can leverage technology to leapfrog our development and economic recovery efforts.

“Africa’s post COVID recovery must leverage the African Continental free trade agreement. The AFCTA is a unique opportunity for us to consolidate Africa’s enormous potentials through which we will create millions of jobs, reduce Africa’s import dependency, boost intra Africa trade and export and strengthened cross border tied and trade relations. The opportunities are mind boggling, but they include the magic word, collaborations.

“The pandemic also induced serious challenge of food security and food inflation is now expected to rise above 12 percent this year. The pandemic also expose the need for collaboration and networking. So, Africa must sustain cross border supply network that will connect global and domestic markets. The agricultural sector is key towards ensuring productivity to improve our GDP. So, we must improve our agricultural production. We must produce our own food and reduce import dependency. The conflict in Ukraine has shown us clearly that we don’t have to be dependent on other countries.

“Africa parliamentary leadership must partner with the Executive, the rivals sector and all other stakeholders to design and implement framework that will support the agricultural sector in tackling food insecurity on the continent. The journey to a sustainable post COVID economic recovery is riddled with so much responsibilities for our government. So all hands must be on deck in tackling the impact of the pandemic. We must build strong collaborate partnership across our executive, legislature, the judiciary and the private sector. If there is any lesson at all, it is that no nation, no institution can succeed alone. Collaboration is key across the world today”.

The President further stated that Africa was hard-hit in the aftermath of the pandemic.

According to him, Nigeria spent about N1.6 trillion in the stimulus programme.

“Over 30 million jobs lost since the pandemic with about 26 to 40 million people going into extreme poverty. Various African countries put in place extreme measures to curtail the effect of the virus and limit the socio-economic impact such as lockdowns and stimulus package. In Nigeria, our stimulus programme was to the tune of about N1.6 trillion.

“The post economic stimulus package for Africa must go beyond individual efforts that we have made in our countries. There is the need for increased collaboration and integration of efforts to drive sustainable economic growth and recovery across the African continent. Our parliaments have a particular role to play aside from the fact that they have been charged to make laws to guide

“The initial concern in all African countries is how to improve. One key issue during early discussions before this meeting is the issue of debt cancellation for African countries and this initiative is already gaining traction. One of those things that was discussed was the Special drawing Rights of about 650 billion dollars. Of course, there is the argument of how much African continent got.

“The Economic Commission for Africa recently proposed that our countries can help their financing needs by leveraging SDR through unbending vehicles such as liquidity sustainability facilities and multilateral and regional programs as well as the poverty reduction and growth plans.

“The pandemic exposed our vulnerability of our heath care systems and has shown how interconnected and interdependent we all are as a continent. So, we must collectively invest in our health system and our health emergency structures so that we can deal with pandemics as they arise. We just heard that another pandemic could as well be around the corner.

“Vaccination is important to post COVID recovery. But Africa has lagged behind so far compared to the rest of the world with only 16 percent of our population fully vaccinated. There is the need for the African continent to free itself from all external mechanism and guarantee our own system. We may not be able to do that unless we have the amount of resources to work with. The time has come for us to begin to produce our vaccines. This is not a feat that is impossible, but it must be a collective boast. Legislations must be put in place across the continent to make research and development possible, harmonies drug registration, to build world class facilities. Our SDR could release development finance facilities for the creation of vaccine facilities. So, we have a unique opportunity.

“Africa’s post COVID strategy must also include increase social protection for all and this is also an important issue. The pandemic revealed the importance of social protection scheme in responding to a wide range of economic options and most African countries implemented various social protection safety nets. But going forward, we must leverage these experience and drive progress towards more inclusive. More effective and more equitable social protections. Social protections are expensive and subject to hydrological argument. It is no longer a socialist idea, but has become fundamental. Our legislators need to champion this idea”, he said.

Speaking virtually at the event, the President of AfDB, Dr. Adesina while corroborating the President’s position on food production also tasked the continent on building a good healthcare defence system.

He said: “This conference of speakers must be direct towards tackling the challenges facing our continent. Talking about the challenges it’s not enough, there must be solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the growth and develop Africa as well the rest of the world. Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases stand at 11.5 million people with 253,000 deaths. Africa’s economic growth were in decline by minus -1.5 percent, over 26 million people fell further into poverty, while 30 million jobs were lost. The trajectory of economic recovery from the pandemic is shaped by access to vaccines, and on this the divergence between a developed economies and developing economies is stuck. Developed countries accounted for 63% of the people vaccinated globally, Africa our continent have only 16 percent of these people fully vaccinated which is extremely low compared to 63 percent of North America, 69 percent for Asia and so on.

“We must not be complacent, next pandemic is just around the corner, God help us. Africa must build what I call Healthcare Defence System. This must include development of local vaccines and building quality healthcare infrastructure.

“While foreign companies are now establishing vaccines manufacturing companies in some parts of Africa, we must go well beyond that. We must encourage African owned vaccines manufacturing companies. Legislations should be designed to encourage this.

“The Russian war in Ukraine has added another challenge to what we are facing in Africa. the dependency of African countries on Russia and Ukraine, the war disruption has added to looming food crisis in Africa. The African Development Bank has designed a $1.5 billion emergency food production plan to support African countries to avert the looming food crisis.

“Africa should be decoupled from food import dependency. Africa must feed itself and do so with pride. The economic recovery must be felt in day to day lives of people. The recovery must create jobs and recover jobs lost, focus on MSMEs, the recovery must focus on youths and tackle debts of Africa. The recovery will require close partnership with executive arm and legislative arm of government. Regardless of the challenges facing our country, be the solution providers, drive for an economic recovery that’s felt by all.

Earlier in his welcome address, the
Speaker, House of Representatives said that insecurity has posed a big threat to the future of Africa’s children.

The speaker also said that democracy in Africa was in danger, decrying the many military interventions that recently characterised the continent.

He said: “Africa has come of age. Yet there is no gainsaying that we are far from achieving the highest potential that we are able. Across the continent, democracy is under threat and in retreat. From Sudan to Mali, Guinea and Chad, elected governments have been usurped by military juntas, overturning years of progress and the hopes of millions. Even in the places where elected governments are still in charge, public faith in the governing institutions is at an all-time low. When citizens lose confidence that a democratic government can meet their expectations, democracy loses credibility and support and begins a death spiral. This is the reality in too many places across our continent.

“Many reasons have been adduced to explain how we arrived at these dire circumstances. This Conference will examine some of those reasons to understand what we need to do to correct the trajectory of our countries and continent. However, Ladies and gentlemen, honourable colleagues, I want to tell you today that Africa’s destiny is not set in stone. Our tomorrow is a consequence of today’s choices, the commitments we make and the priorities we choose to pursue.

“Despite the real challenges and present dangers, this is also a time of abundant promise and possibility for us in Africa. Technology has remade our world into a global village where a child with a computer and internet connection in Lagos or Addis Ababa can compete in and succeed in a global marketplace that prioritises ideas and talent over religion, ethnicity and tribe.

“As leaders in this new world, there is no decision more consequential than investing in Africa’s young people, protecting them, ensuring their health and well-being and providing them with a solid education upon which to build their future. To deliver on this obligation, we must first ensure that our nations are at peace, as this is the necessary condition for development and progress.

“The present insecurity and the rampaging uncertainty across the continent represent the single biggest threat to the well-being of our children. Therefore, we must wage the battle for peace with a warrior’s resolve because everything depends on our victory over the forces that threaten our children’s future.

“Throughout history, trade and the shared prosperity that flows therefrom have proved valuable in creating the wealth of nations and ensuring peaceful coexistence.

“It is imperative that we take the opportunity of this Conference to consider the role of African legislatures in facilitating our collective advancement and shared prosperity by ensuring the free movement of people, goods, and services across Africa. And from that consideration, let us commit ourselves to using the tools of parliamentary diplomacy and authority to set our continent irreversibly on the path to a future of honourable peace and abiding prosperity for all.”

In his remarks, the Secretary General of Inter Parliamentary Union, IPU, Martin Chungong who also spoke virtually pledged the support of the union in assisting the conference translate into opportunities to support the economic challenges.

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