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Okonjo-Iweala, President Kagame, Others Chart Course For Africa’s COVID-19 Vaccine Inequity, Economic Sustainability

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•Digital Revolution
•Viable Free Trade Area
•Accessing IMF’s $34bn loan

•Delta Variant

By OLUWADAMILARE DANIELS

The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, celebrated this year’s Africa Day in commemoration of African unity with the third edition of its annual UBA Africa Conversations. President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame; Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, and Managing Director, International Finance Corporation(IFC), Mr. Makhtar Sop Diop, were all in attendance. Yours truly, Oluwadamilare Daniels was at the online conversations moderated by the Group Chairman, UBA/ Founder, Tony Elumelu, which was themed ‘Bringing Africa to the World.’ Discussions at the event focused on Africa’s development in the areas of the economy and finance, free trade area, Africa’s COVID-19 Vaccine Inequity, digital revolution, accessing International Monetary Fund’s $34bn accessible to Africa, and the unity of the continent.

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The conversation

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Although Africa has not seen the same scale of devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic as other regions, the impact has still not been profound for livelihood, and economy, suffice to say Africa is yet to escape COVID-19 Pandemic, we should not let down our guard due to what is happening now in some other parts of the world can also happen in our continent. With the support of COVAX, about 47 countries in Africa continent have started vaccination however, the volumes of vaccination are nowhere near enough, so far, Africa has administered 25 million doses approximately 1.5m persons of the global total.

World Health Organization, (WHO) is working day and night to bring immediate solutions for the equitable distributions of vaccines doses but it’s clear that solely Africa cannot rely on the import of vaccines from the rest of the world, Africa must build the capacity, not for only COVID-19 vaccines but for other vaccines the corporation of the public and private sector will be essential, I know that this is an area that President Kagame feel strongly about and he is taking concrete action, WHO is also working with African Union to establish the African Medicines Agencies, we will continue our financial and technical support to establish the African Medicine Agency.

The pandemic has demonstrated that health is not a luxury item or simply an outcome of development; it is a human right and a prerequisite for social and economic development.

Vaccination of African Viz-a-viz our population

Okonjo Iweala: Our youths is what we have, youths is gold to us, if only we can harness them productively to recover from the pandemic, I am so proud that the Continent has done so well in bringing together our leaders ready to build one Africa approach by putting in place vaccines acquisition groups; medical supplies platforms; VOCID-19 envoy and supporting CDC, but if we are to recover sustainably we have to correct the vaccines inequity that is so evident in the world, the fact that we have vaccinated a little portion of our population is not acceptable the fact we import 99% of our vaccines and 90% of our pharmaceuticals is not acceptable but going back to the vaccines the International Monetary Fund (IMF) did an interesting study where they show that if we spend$50 billion additional to vaccinate %40 of the world’s population by 2021and up to %60 by 2022 we will be able to reverse this vaccine inequity and the world can actually gain $9 trillion by 2025, due to my background as a finance minister we can raise $1trillon in taxes.

Therefore, it is important for the world to reverse the vaccine inequity and allow Africa to benefit immensely from it; we cannot recover sustainably without it. We need to fight for it either by getting more vaccines from outside production or manufacturing our own on our soil and the WTO stands ready to create a stake to keep the supply chain open for this manufacture.

When we reverse this inequity we will be able to create the type of platform; the type of hope that will encourage our young entrepreneurs epitomize by someone like Sola Akinlade the founder of Paystack who addressed presidents at the recent Financing Africa Summit and showed the world that African and it is youths is part of the present and also can be the part of the future.

Makhtar Sop Diop:

The world is difficult and we need to transform it, the African continent is stared with adversities while progress has been made in important elements to change the face of our continent, we’ve got opportunities to transform our continent, transforming our continent means creating jobs and growth, it means we have to encourage small-medium scale enterprises to start up to employ the youths, we need free trade among Africans, we have opportunities in Africa to turn around the face of pharmaceuticals.

We are lucky to have people who know the continent and are in various positions for positive growth.

President Kagame:

Security and peace in our continent need the attention of all, from assassination in Chad; Ethiopia; Egypt down to Sudan; rising extremism in Nigeria, growing militia group in Libya, Violence in the Sahara region, what are the African leaders doing to combat these rising insecurity in the continent which is a threat to growth and widespread prosperity which we need in Africa today? What we should have done to prevent them in the first place, the first thing African leaders should do, when I say leaders I mean from business leaders to brothers and sisters who play leadership roles in various capacities.

We need to think of the well being of one another but, the continuation of conflicts from Mozambique; Central Africa Republic, settling one and another one is cropping up, we need to invest more time and resources to put in place good politics, first domestically in every nation, then other issues to deal with across the country, we can’t just switch off conflicts we need to invest and address the root causes of these problems.

This task is a task you can’t afford to get a result in a fortnight rather we need to work the talk as well because leaders from different regions meet often and the problems were not cupped, this shows that we needed to add a sense of urgency to these, we have crisis; conflicts and poverty striving against growth across Africa continent which take tolls from youths, women, and children.

For instance, the African Continental Free Trade Area created must be capitalised upon, if we must realise the benefits, countries must work together in peace and stability otherwise we will lose the prospective opportunities that will come from it.

We need to do more of the scene.

Question for Dr Tedros

The stampede for vaccines has increased, Africa shelters 1.2b people as it stands but it has few people vaccinated, what is the way forward? The problem is vaccine nationalism, some say vaccine apartheid, the solution is, we need to agree on the importance of corporation competition and confrontation, the only option is corporation because it is a common enemy, when we say share, it is not charity, it is in the interest of the world, the immediate pushing now is sharing, US, France, New Zealand, Sweden Denmark are ready to share vaccine.

They are better protected when they share not when they keep to themselves. We need to increase the volume of vaccines we have, voluntary licensing Astrazeneca-vaccines, and other outlets to increase vaccine coverage in all countries. We need all African countries to support this.

Question for Okonjo-Iweala

What are some immediate actions that must be taken by the African continent to curb this Pandemic and jack up economic growth?

The idea is the world should vaccinate 3% of the population of front line workers, and the next 20% of vulnerable workers, if they’ve done that, we would’ve had access to the vaccine equitability, but some countries went ahead to vaccinate their population and we got into this situation of scarcity supply.

So to catalyze recovery and economic growth, first and foremost we need to solve the health problems ravaging our lands, then we need to seek the chances of getting physical stimulus into our economy on the short economy policy side, the developed countries are recovering very fast because they have been able to invest massively amount of physical stimulus, for the rich countries 28% of GDP for the merging market 6.9% but for the poorer countries just about 2% so, if we want to recovery we need to give Africa economy space to breath so that they can invest on the economic sides.

The good news is the issuance of a new Special Drawing Right (SDR) which some African leaders have been pushing for. $650bn has been set aside by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of which African is entitled to $34bn but, more might be allocated later, we can access this to help implement more physical stimulus so that our economy can have the ability to recover, some can be used for liquidity for the private sector, you don’t know that in developed countries private sector has access to credit and liquidity, small and medium enterprises have been able to recover, we need to do that though.

Secondly, we need to revive the services sector, many countries depend on Tourism, some logistics, for instance, Ethiopia depends on aviation, how to get those industries revived using these resources is very important which are all in the short-term. In the long-term, though we need to diversify our economy we are too vulnerable to movement in commodity prices which we all saw during this pandemic, a lot of fluctuations, the countries that did better were the countries that have diversified their economy, we need to do that in the longer-term and of course, take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area to specialise some of our countries in production to trade more with one another including the outside world.

Question for Okonjo-Iweala

What are your hopes and ambitions for African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), will you advice African leaders to industrialise and build manufacturing capabilities outlets? To make it work, we have to handle some logistic issues, some African countries are doing better, while Lorries are been parked at some borders due to not having a digital passport to enable easy movement.

In East Africa they are doing better, they have invested in infrastructure but, movement of people should also be made easier and I think the African Union (AU) passport is important for business people so they can move easily, if we want the continental free trade area to work, we must make goods and services of people flow easily.

Lastly, we don’t really have a choice. If we want to change the tenure of growth in Africa, to rely more on ourselves, less on the outside to add value to our raw materials to export more, we’ve got to make these free trade areas work the WTO is expectant and waiting to support the continent to make this work.

President Kagame

Leaders have to make it work, it’s a political will, the free movement of people, digitalising the systems is the right way to go, but how does it happen when the big Elephant is still in the room? We need a kind of politics to be able to move this forward, I think that is where we will be stocked for a very long time.

Okonjo Iweala

Back to the pandemic, if we can come together to fight the pandemic with a political whip, why can’t we come together to do these bigger things to make our economy better? If we need to match on the street to achieve these let us know.

Question to Makhtar Sop Diop

Mr IFC at the head of the global institution committed to strengthening the private sectors in countries, In what ways can the International Finance Corporation (IFC) help to build capacity for small and medium scale enterprises and young entrepreneurs in Africa?

We have seen that the pandemic has increased our collective relaxed on technology and one lesson we have learned is that little technology not only has the potential to create new jobs but can actually add productivity to enhance the same job, as we look forward to economic recovery in Africa how can we enhance internet connectivity on our continent to assist our young ones, in particular, to leverage on technology?

It is fascinating to know that if you are staring with danger you’ve got the right to re-group and go on to tackle the immediate danger, earlier President Kagame talked about conflicts ravaging Africa when you tackle one, others surfaces, which will make you not be able to develop other quarters of the economy, our problems are to move out of this reactive mode to a much more longer; peaceful and sustainable mode, to achieve this we need to act connectively because we all need connective wisdom to thrive.

These should be put forth by our leaders for the continent to move forward. We also need to move systematically; document systematise for optimum access. There is a need to improve the digital capability in Africa, and lastly, there is a need for private sector pharmaceuticals to handle COVID-19 production.

Question for President Kagame

In Industrial Revolution, we’ve got first, second, third, and now the fourth revolution which is the Digital Revolution, how do we position Africa not to lose out in the digital technological revolution and leverage on it to reduce poverty, increase productivity and prosperity in Africa?

I understand the revolution and I’ve heard about the benefits, industrial revolutions cut across sectors therefore, how do we leverage on it? It is been talked about earlier, we need to connect countries to our created free trade area, make ways for it to be meaningful where big scale, small and medium enterprises will benefit, enhance our youths; movement of people; wages paid as at when due.

We’ve learned from the Pandemic when every aspect of life almost came to a halt, COVID-19 has made us test the magnitude of applications created by the digital revolution when there was no movement, homes, offices, and countries benefited from these revolutions, we need to do practical things to make things work for us.

Delta Variant

The Delta variant is now in more than 111 countries and we expect it to soon be the dominant COVID-19 strain circulating worldwide if it isn’t already,” the UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes the WHO, DG, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus as saying. “The spread of the Delta variant – one of the main drivers of the current increase in transmission – was also being fuelled by increased social mobility and the inconsistent use of proven public health and social measures.

He drew the Committee’s attention to the ongoing ‘shocking disparity in the global distribution of vaccines, as well as unequal access to life-saving tools, reiterating his concern that inequity had created a two-track pandemic. Unfortunately…we are now in the early stages of a third wave,” the DG concluded.