By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Charles Boamah, Former Senior Vice President at African Development Bank Group has reiterated that African countries should embrace entrepreneurship looking at the issues that the COVID-19 has come with. Mr Charles Boamah was speaking to Dr Denis Foretia, Executive Chairman – Nkafu Policy Institute and Co-Chair – Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation during a Nkafu Policy discussion on “COVID-19 and African Economies: A conversation with Charles Boamah”.
Just barely 4 months when Africa recorded its first coronavirus case, there has been an upsurge in the number of cases and fatalities. According to the Africa CDC, the continent has recorded 476,200 COVID-19 cases, which is considered very low when compared to other continents.
However, Africa may yet be worst hit by this invisible disease. It’s already fragile health systems, poverty and very dense urban agglomerations are likely to increase the vulnerability of the continent and maybe the lethality of the virus. According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization, Africa should “wake up” to the COVID-19 threat and prepare for a worst-case scenario.
Mr Boamah has thus called on respect for the protocols that have been put in place. The COVID-19 has been a wakeup call to the African continent in strengthening must of their health systems.
In the question and answer session, Mr Boamah acknowledged gender and said it is very critical in this COVID-19. To stop the “bleeding” major measures to help businesses should be taken. Infrastructure needs to be built to help the population. “There is too much expectation that it should be done by the government. There needs to be improved policy environment, create an environment that will enable greater private financing,” He said.
Speaking, Dr Foretia said the meeting is coming at a time of great uncertainty. COVID-19 has brought untold sufferings on many across the continent and the world. Various interactive conversations have been held with personalities across the board with others programmed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect countries across the African continent. Many countries implemented stringent measures to curb the spread of the pandemic in their country. Last month, some of these countries who had implemented these lockdown measures and others started reopening with various issues.
“I do not think anybody had an idea of the scale of such a disease. Out of the total number of cases worldwide, just 5% is in Africa, with a lower death rate. The recovery rate in Africa is higher than the global average,” Mr Charles Boamah said.
“… The pandemic has been detrimental in most economies of the African continent. There have been economic downturns and many of the African countries have seen contractions in their economies due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has brought to light some of the problems that existed in the continent such as infrastructural issues and others.”
Governments across the African continent have put some barrier measures against the COVID-19 and called on their populace to adhere to the measures. Mr Boamah, however, says some of these measures have issues. To him, the government is calling for people to wash their hands frequently and others but that the situation is different with many not privy to water and others.
According to Dr Foretia, the issue of job and youth unemployment has always been and will be after the COVID-19 pandemic. He thus asked the question on what can be the solution to this perennial problem on the African continent.
Attempting an answer, Mr Boamah said that the formula amongst youths is that they will go to school, graduate and then go to look for jobs in the government and big companies. He said that entrepreneurship needs to be embraced. “COVID-19 is a wakeup call that there are things that should be done. Young people are coming with innovations that tackle the disease, innovation needs to be supported,” Mr Boamah stated.
In the wake of this pandemic, the African Development Bank has rolled out emergency response support which began in March to assist African countries and has provided packages for financial relief, preparedness and response.
This event was aimed to present a clear and accurate picture, highlighting where efforts can be concentrated in the management and mitigation of COVID-19 on the African continent.
Areas of the discussion focused on preventing and responding to the international spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary disruption to traffic and trade, mobilization of International Economic Support to fight against COVID-19 in African, the current health landscape and related challenges while considering the road ahead amongst others.