By Ajuma Edwina Ogiri
As Africa and the rest of the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, African leaders have been urged to invest in health, agriculture and digital technology.
A High-Level Leadership Panel, gave the advice at the UBA second edition webinar in celebration of Africa Day 2020, moderated by the Chairman, United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu.
The webinar titled: ‘UBA Africa Day Conversations 2020: Growth, Jobs and Sustainable Development Amidst A Global Pandemic‘, which held on Monday, had the President of Senegal, H.E. Macky Sall; President of Liberia, H.E George Weah and United States Senator and member of the senate foreign relations committee, Chris Coons, on the panel.
Other members of the panel includes the President & 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 and President and Founder, Africa CEO Forum, Amir Ben Yahmed.
Sharing their ideas on how to develop Africa amidst this pandemic, Elumelu stated that ”this is no time for finger-pointing, this is a time for collaboration. This is a time for us to deal with the situation we have and also forge a better future for everyone.”
In his presentation, the President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the weakness of health systems, water and sanitation.
“The pandemic has illustrated the weak situation of health, water and food systems and we need to heavily invest both by the public and private sectors to stabilise the health sector.
“We need to look at pandemics as part of a broader health systems that needs stabilisation. We need multi-stakeholders to divert their investments to the more fragile parts of Nigeria,” Maurer opined.
“The health system across the continent is still very uneven. It will be very difficult for governments to develop national health programs. We need to look at intermediate steps, like micro-health insurance.
“We need to also look at the education sector. The reality is that hundreds of millions of children are estranged from their education,” Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, stated.
On his part, Prof. Okey Oramah, said while attention should be paid to the medical issues surrounding COVID-19, they should not loose sight of the danger that hunger also poses.
“Hunger is likely to be more devastating than the COVID-19, thus the need to invest heavily in Agriculture is very important.”
A second session of the UBA Africa Conversations, moderated by Eugenia Abu, themed: “Domestic Policies, Regional Development and a Global Agenda: SDGs and African Development at Crossroads,” also had other panelists giving their opinion.
One of the panelists, Maanaging Director/Chief Executive Officer of UBA, Abiola Bawuah, stated that “it’s high time we took our destiny into our own hands, as we can’t continue to rely on foreign donors.”
“Like our Chairman always says, ‘Africa can only be developed by Africans’. Therefore, he founded what we call, Africapitalism which is an economic philosophy that says that the human and capital resources of Africa are the only ways in which we can develop Africa.
“For Africa, the problems are deeper in many other areas, especially in the area of food supply. We’ve made available $200m which we are also lending to financial institutions to supply,” she said.
Another speaker, Co-Founder of Sahel Consulting, Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, said, “My charge to you and my call today is that we invest in the agricultural sector, prioritize it, leverage it, transform our educational system to prepare our young people for this sector, change the mindset and trade with each other.
“I want to suggest to young people, you can make money in agriculture. Change your mindset and stop equating agriculture to poverty. It is an opportunity to create jobs and change lives on our continent.”
Africa Day is celebrated worldwide on May 25th, to showcase the diversity and beauty of Africa and its people and at UBA with footprint in 20 African countries, the development, growth and unity of the continent remains the core of the bank’s focus.