Build partnerships towards economic recovery - Mahama urges African governments
Former President John Dramani Mahama has called on African countries to build effective partnerships to put their economies back on more resilient recovery pathways from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The speed and quality of the economic recovery process from the pandemic will depend on our shared collective responsibility. Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, Africa can accelerate and build back better,” he said.
Mr. Mahama made the call when he opened the Third African Economic Congress in Lagos yesterday.
The three-day virtual congress, on the theme: “Accelerate Africa: Building Back Better”, is a response to a growing call for action to accelerate Africa’s capacity to recover from the pandemic and forge a path towards building an inclusive, and development-driven continent.
It covers panel sessions on agriculture, finance, trade, technology, youth, women, security, health and energy.
Admittedly, Mr. Mahama said, COVID-19 had been one of many challenges that had aggravated Africa’s vulnerabilities and exacerbated existing development challenges.
“COVID-19 is impacting and impeding the previously steady progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, whose target date is only eight years away.
“So insidious has it been that it has literally relegated many of the challenges facing our people – challenges such as unemployment, bad governance, corruption, inadequate health facilities, poor roads, insecurity among others.
Mr. Mahama said there was no doubt that the times had been very challenging for Africa and the rest of the world.
However, he said, one thing that was clear was that when the pandemic finally ended, the sanitary practice that had been cultivated would remain with the people.
The former President further noted that the pandemic had also pushed Africans to be more innovative and ensure a better use of technology to manage time.
Mr. Mahama called on governments on the continent to adopt a radical shift in strategy to secure and vaccinate their populations.
He said the development of vaccines by several countries on different continents should inspire Africa to look both outward and inward for solutions.
In addition, he said, the continent must improve affordable access to medical supplies, by building quality and cost-effective healthcare infrastructure, and manufacturing capacity for pharmaceuticals, medicines and vaccine production.
“This is why, as President of Ghana, I developed a programme and supported Ghanaian pharmaceutical industries with stimulus packages to improve their efficiencies and enhance productivity,” he told the congress.
Mr. Mahama challenged businesses, people, financial institutions and governments to rapidly adjust to the ‘new normal’.
“A robust digital infrastructure is necessary for a resilient build back. Digital education of the population is important for the youth, including the old,” he said.
Mr. Mahama recalled a proposal he made to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to agree to an arrangement with such persons affected by the pandemic, particularly those in the private sector, such that it paid them a small part of their contributions to enable them to survive during periods of hardship.
“The COVID-19 lockdown periods demonstrated clearly that the success of a nation depends on businesses, in addition to its SMEs, which employ millions and are key drivers of development,” he said.
Quality of growth
As Africa built back, he said, priority should be placed on the quality of growth to impact on the livelihoods of the people.
Mr. Mahama said growth must be more equitable and focused on sectors that were better able to create jobs.
“This is the reason we need to deepen democracy in Africa and empower citizens and civil society organisations to advocate inclusive and shared growth. This is what our national discourse, and the intra-African discourse, must be about. We also need honesty and transparency from governments,” he stated.
He said the continent must build back by paying greater attention to climate change and global warming.
“Treating the earth better for sustainable development will in itself prevent pandemics and improve the supply chain crisis that the world is experiencing now. In addition to these, we must fully implement the African Continental Free Trade Area to create competitive industrial manufacturing capacity and wider trade and investment opportunities and fast-track Africa’s industrialisation. This will position our African economies to withstand future global shocks better,” he said.