By Edwin Muhumuza
The Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Tony Elumelu, has said that the Corona virus Pandemic presents an opportunity to reset the African continent so that Africans can be empowered to become more productive and self-reliant.
He made the remarks during a high-level Round table discussion comprised of African leaders including Dr. Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala, the Special Envoy of the African Union on Covid-19 and Tidjane Thiam who is also a Covid-19 Special Envoy responsible for mobilizing international economic support for Africa.
During the session titled ‘Resilient World: An African call for a new world order’. Elumelu noted that Africa as a continent has all it takes to emerge into a strong digital economy adding that there is need for a concrete plan to galvanize the entire continent and make Africa less dependent on the ‘circularity of debt’ from developed nations, which according to him, has been a major setback for decades.
“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. I have often argued for a martial plan overtime. We need to mobilize everyone. If we have a martial plan that mobilizes resources to address particular issues, then we can mitigate against this constant begging for assistance.”
There are now more than over 91,000 confirmed cases, more than 2,900 deaths and over 35,000 recoveries of corona virus across the continent, with a number of African countries imposing a range of prevention and containment measures and as of May 13, every African country had recorded an infection, the last being Lesotho.
However, the economic impact of the pandemic is yet to be fully ascertained on a continent fully. With the continent’s economies heavily dependent on aid amid a rise in entrepreneurship driven by Small and Medium-size enterprises (SMEs), the future presents a dim picture.
The Billionaire has called for the need to prioritize youths and empower SMEs as well as boosting Electricity and Easing the debt burden, adding that there is need to encourage the people that work hard.
Tidjane Thiam who supported what Elumelu had proposed, said that rather than depend on international assistance at every point, there is the need for governments and institutions to invest in activities that will prioritize the 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 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.
Okonjo-Iweala, on her part, called for a system where youths and women will be empowered to create and produce more to boost the African economy,Whilst calling on private and government parastatals to engage in meaningful partnerships that will help to galvanize job creation and entrepreneurship among youths in Africa,
Explaining further, Elumelu pointedly said, “The truth is that we have resources to help mobilize 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.
The round-table which was organized by the New York Forum Institute, also had in attendance African Heads of States including 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;