Uche Usim, Abuja
As the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic disrupts global supply chains, African Presidents, diplomats, economists, ICT experts and other players in the socio-economic space brainstormed at the 2nd Edition of the annual 3-day African Economic Congress (AEC) organized by the African Economic and Investment held virtually from the 2nd – 4th November to design a recovery blueprint.
The event, with the theme “Post COVID-19: Africa in the New Economic Order”, featured live broadcasts, presentations, interviews, webinars and online debates on the region’s economy.
The AEC 2020 convened professionals across various sectors in Africa who reflected and discussed opportunities that could be leveraged upon for growth, proposed strategies for an economic transformation across all sectors in the continent. The congress sought to engage conversations to facilitate sustainable and inclusive growth and development for Africa following the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3-day congress included panel sessions in different areas, from Agriculture, Education, Finance, Health, Women, MSMEs, Tech, and Development.
The congress, which held as a televised virtual event, hosted in the city of Abuja had in attendance over 2,000,000 participants, including senior government officials, top diplomats and international organizations with participants comprising 32 countries, with over 40 speakers from across Africa spread across 9 sessions, with a vibrant and engaging social media conversations across the three days that led to the trending #AEC2020 and #AEC2020VIRTUAL across different African countries. Speakers in attendance were:
Dr Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi; Assef Hanafi Elsiefy, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Nigeria; Humphrey Geiseb, High Commissioner of the Republic of Namibia to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Dr Benson Alfred Bana, High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Her Excellency, Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia.
Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nigeria; Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Senator Hope Uzodinma, Governor of Imo State, Nigeria; Prof. Carlos Lopes, African Union Representative to Europe on Partnerships; Prof. Afeikhena Jerome, Special Adviser, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union; Asmae Boureddya, Special Adviser to the CEO of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) on Engagement with Private Sector and Resource Mobilization; Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Dr Albert Zeufack, Chief Economist for Africa, World Bank; Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS; Martin Fregene, Director, Agriculture & Agro-Industry, African Development Bank, Abidjan; Dr Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator, Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Nigeria and a host of others.
Participants observed that the COVID-19 pandemic was a major setback to the progress made by African countries towards the 2063 African Union agenda. They also reckoned that deaths have been comparatively low, the socio-economic effects of the pandemic are huge and will take years to recover. It was also noted that Africa has everything it takes to finance its 2063 growth agenda, a myriad of factors such as interference by foreign powers and bad leadership have denied us access to this wealth needed to drive economic development. Currently, Africa has two major assignments; the attainment of the 2063 agenda and managing the Post-COVID-19 recovery process. COVID-19 has shown the crucial need for better internet connectivity and more broadband investment into technology as Africa is highly reliant on external support for sustenance.
Participants recommended that the agricultural sector remains key to Africa’s economic transformation. By developing the sector, abundant resources can be provided to finance the 2063 African union agenda and curb unemployment, food shortage, malnutrition and extreme poverty.
They also noted that the African Union leadership needs to come up with policies and systems to guide the continent and its people to find solutions to the continent’s challenges and the development needs.
Again, participants said African leaders need to take more steps to develop its youth population. By improving the learning curriculum in response to the future needs of the youth, we can forge a path for more youth representation in leadership.
Africa leaders were charged to move for self-reliance in the coming years, by harnessing and leveraging her abundant resources (both human and material), we can drive economic transformation and build a self-reliant continent.