By Myke Uzendu, Abuja
Economic and finance experts have called on African leaders to resist the temptation of copying the COVID-19 solutions adopted by western countries but rather look inwards for medical and economic solutions that can deal with the unique situation of the pandemic in Africa.
The resolution was reached during a webinar titled COVID-19 Economic Threat: How Africa can overcome financial crises, organized by Foreign Investment Network, United Kingdom recently and monitored by The AUTHORITY.
In his contribution, Soji Adeniyi, former Chairman of United Nations Pensions Fund faulted the total lock down policy implemented by most African countries saying that African economy is too fragile for complete shutdown.
He said that African leaders should rather exploit some of the bilateral treaties and activate intercontinental trade with countries linked by land boarder to reduce the looming economic recession that might linger at the end of the pandemic.
He said: “Africa already has an advantage. We are already seeing some solutions coming from different parts of Africa, the Madagascar experience of the COVID organic for instance; we should be talking about it and how to further test it.
“Why are we copying and pasting the model of shutting down knowing that our economy can hardly survive these challenges and yet we are going with the blanket of ‘shut down now or regret later’. Why are we not trading with ourselves despite the global lock down? Why are we not looking at countries that are connected either by land boarder to do screening at the boarder point or put in place any systems that ensures that there is less challenge in the inter boarder opportunities that we have.
“For instance why do we not have the mutuality that says that if my citizen crosses to your country, the citizen pays for his quarantine at his or her cost but business continues. In some of these ways we will take advantage of the common investment treaties that we have already signed before now”.
Also Speaking, Christian Paradis, former Canadian Minister of International Development, stressed that total lockdown will be counterproductive since Africa does not have social safety nets like other countries in Europe and America.
“As the world struggle for the solution to COVID-19, people still need to work and other diseases like HIV/AIDS, Lassa fever are still very much prevalent. Social distancing and self-isolation as we see in the other countries with safety nets is not just possible in most of the countries in Africa and we need to keep that in mind”.
Prof Ken Ife, London Enterprise Ambassador & Chief Economic Strategist in ECOWAS Commission said that Africa must increase its national savings and explore other local ways to fund its projects instead of foreign loans.
According to him, “Africa should find a way of increasing national savings because national savings is something you can borrow against. Our national savings are very low and we have far more money outside the banking system; we have to be more creative in developing informal savings mechanisms. That is where we can get the money to finance our infrastructure and limit external borrowings. In Nigeria, we also have the diaspora remittance, $26b much more than the oil revenue”.
Also in his contribution, Edmond Magoma an entrepreneur from Democratic Republic of Congo said “It is now time for Africa to find African solutions to African problems. So far, our mind sets are not right. We depend all the time on foreign aids while 80% of the world resources are in Africa. It is clear that Africa has to start to develop its own economy. African leaders are failing the African people. We need to start to invest in our own economy, develop our own industry and become autonomous in terms of food”.