…As ICT , Oil And Gas And Agribusiness Take Centre-stage
By Precious John
Business and government leaders from across the US and Africa tuned in to gain insights on sectors critical to post-COVID economic recovery, such as ICT, finance, oil and gas and agribusiness., as Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted day three of its inaugural Leaders Forum – a high level virtual forum that brings together Heads of State, senior USG and African government officials, CEOs and private sector executives, and leaders from multilateral institutions.
Session three, entitled Resiliency in Action: Drivers of Growth in Post COVID Africa featured opening remarks by Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bonnie Glick.
Deputy Administrator Glick noted the critical role the US government played in Africa to help tackle COVID-19. She stated that “in Sub-Saharan Africa, our US government contribution of assistance includes more than US$361 million to meet the critical needs of communities, governments and of course the health workers on the front lines of the pandemic.”
Day three of the Forum also featured a high-level panel moderated by Senior Partner, Johannesburg, and Chairman, McKinsey Africa Dr. Acha Leke, who in his opening statement impressed upon the audience the need to reimagine society. Panelists discussed the impact of COVID-19 on their economies, business and growth drivers and their outlooks for the future.
Special Advisor to the President on Finance and The Economy, Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Sarah Alade emphasized Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability plan, a US$6 billion initiative to stimulate the economy and prevent business collapse in the face of COVID-19. This initiative will prioritize investments in the healthcare sector, job creation, infrastructure, and manufacturing. Dr. Alade stressed the need for an enabling business environment to sustain self-sufficiency and stated “the whole idea is that whatever businesses we have, we want to ensure that they continue to produce. We also intend to create jobs using labor-intensive methods.”
Co-founder of IHS Towers and CEO, IHS Nigeria Mohamad Darwish discussed how the ICT sector plays a key role in promoting resilience during this health crisis, enabling people to stay connected and maintain access to necessary resources. Looking forward, Mr. Darwish urged African economies to diversify from reliance on natural resources, to create enabling business environments that support SMEs and investment, and to further invest in ICT. He acknowledged that “these challenges create avenues for improvement and a better future, especially in the telecom sector.”
Senior VP & Group Country Manager – Sub-Saharan Africa, VISA Aida Diarra highlighted VISA’s $200 million commitment to support SMEs over the next 5 years with the goal of enabling 50 million SMEs globally to digitalize. She stressed the importance for African countries to create a business environment that is conducive to innovation and remarked on the impact the AfCFTA will have on enabling e-commerce, affirming that “it is about formalizing the SMEs and giving them a chance to enter the formal ecosystem and enabling the digital payment service providers.”
CEO, OCP Africa Karim Senhadji commended the AfCFTA as a vital tool to increase intra-Africa trade and highlighted the importance of digitalization, and research and development as keys to transforming Africa’s agricultural sector. He noted that “we have to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to support our youth with strong innovator and entrepreneur systems in order to enable them to solve the problems that the continent will face, and to create jobs.”
President and CEO, KRL International Riva Levinson closed out the session by calling for a global response to the global pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the truth that a novel viral infection anywhere is a viral contagion everywhere” she said. In concluding she stated “this is what this week’s CCA Leader Forum has been about: reimagining the world we find ourselves in.”
Building on the momentum of Friday’s session, the fourth and final day of the Leaders Forum, entitled “Resiliency in Action: Sustaining Regional and Bilateral Trade Post-COVID-19”, will be moderated by President and CEO, Corporate Council on Africa, Florizelle Liser and will highlight how trade in Africa may be affected longer term. It will consider the future and potential impact of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and of US-Africa trade arrangements. This session will feature H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana. Registration will remain open and business and government leaders are encouraged to register here to attend this final session.
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.