By Emmanuel Oluebube, Correspondent UK
On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) launched its inaugural Leaders Forum – a high level virtual forum to bring together Heads of State, senior USG and African government officials, CEOs and private sector executives, and leaders from multilateral institutions. Under the theme “Resilient US-Africa Business Engagement to Drive Post COVID-19 Recovery”, the Forum will focus on issues critical to address the unprecedented dual crisis of fighting the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and strategically promoting economic recovery on the continent and a bright future for the US-Africa economic relationship.
The opening session of the Forum focused on the Global Financial Response to COVID-19 in Africa. CCA President and CEO, Florizelle Liser, welcomed business and government leaders from across the US and Africa. She noted that although CCA had postponed its signature US-Africa Business Summit which had been scheduled to take place in Marrakech, Morocco in June 2020, CCA recognized that the world could not wait until the battle against COVID-19 was won before coming together to strategize and create a path toward the future.
Thus, the Leaders Forum will provide CCA members and stakeholders a platform needed now more than ever in these challenging times.
The Forum then was treated to opening remarks by H.E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda. President Kagame stated that “The world is full of uncertainties right now but there’s no doubt that Africa and the US will continue to be important trade and investment partners for each other.” During a fireside chat moderated by CCA Board Vice Chair and CEO of Development Finance International Diane Willkens, President Kagame highlighted three key areas of common interest – the strategy to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the urgent need for coordinated efforts, and lastly trade. In talking about Rwanda’s strategy to combat the pandemic, President Kagame discussed the measures Rwanda had taken to keep the pandemic spread under control, which included a combination of lockdown, policies, and rigorous testing and contact tracing.
Day one of the Forum also featured a high-level panel discussion with private sector leaders and senior multilateral officials including Dr. Donald Kaberuka (Chairman and Managing Partner, SouthBridge Group), Dr. Vera Songwe (Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), Admassu Tadesse (President, Trade and Development Bank), Dr. Albert Zeufack (Chief Economist, Africa, The World Bank Group), and Akin Dawodu (Cluster Head for Sub-Saharan Africa, Citi).
Panelists addressed debt relief for the continent and called for a coordinated African and global financial response to COVID-19 and economic recovery in Africa, emphasizing the role of the private sector and multilateral institutions. Dr. Kaberuka, one of four AU COVID-19 response “envoys” stated that “Africa is not going to the world looking for something, but we are trying to figure out how can Africa be part of this global financial response.” Dr. Vera Songwe provided background on the elements and logic of the debt relief being sought for Africa, noting that “It is a no brainer for African countries to access the Debt Service Suspension Initiative which will give them immediate access to US$13 billion in liquidity.” Dr. Zeufack emphasized the important role the World Bank and international financial institutions must play in Africa’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and Trade and Development Bank (TDB) President Admassu Tadesse noted that his institution was not only providing resources to governments and private sector companies, but supporting development projects urgently needed under the current circumstances. Citi executive Akin Dawodu noted that Citi and other financial institutions were playing their part by “protecting their balance sheet, maintaining their capital adequacy and maintaining access to liquidity in general while providing working capital and financing short term needs to their corporate clients.”
Building on the momentum of today’s session, the second day of Leaders Forum, entitled “Resiliency in Action: Economic and Health Innovations in Response to COVID-19”, will explore the innovative steps taken by African governments and the US and African private sector to fight the pandemic and mitigate the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. This session will feature President of the Republic of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi providing opening remarks. And will be followed by a high level panel including(Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development of Kenya), Honorable Betty Maina, (President and CEO, GE Africa), Farid Fezoua, (Co-Founder and CEO, Mpharma), , Gregory Rockson, (Global Vice President for Policy, Pfizer Inc.) Angela Wasunna, (CEO, Acrow Bridge), Bill Killeen, (Covington & Burling, LLP) Dr. Witney Schneidman and (Vice President & Director, Economic Growth Division, Creative Associates International of Creative Associates International) Dr. Jim Winkler.
Over the course of the week, CCA will continue to convene U.S. and African government and private sector leaders with the aim of advancing dialogue on resiliency of the U.S.-African business engagement to drive economic recovery in a post-COVID era. Registration will remain open all week, and business and government leaders are encouraged to register here (https://bit.ly/3hVdrON) to attend the upcoming sessions.
The CCA Leaders Forum is being generously sponsored by Acrow Bridge; Afro Tourism; AllAfrica, APO Group; Caterpillar Inc.; Citi; Covington and Burling LLP; Creative Associates; Development Finance International; Flutterwave; General Electric; Lockheed Martin; Procter & Gamble; Rabin Martin; and Visa Inc.