The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union’s Specialised Agency for capacity development convened a High-Level brainstorming session which ran under the theme, ‘Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis and Post-COVID-19 challenges.’ The virtual session brought together great minds from government, private sector, development community, civil society, and partner organizations; to determine how ACBF can more effectively support efforts in addressing the challenge of COVID-19 in Africa.
Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Honourable Ken Ofori-Atta, who is also the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of ACBF, was joined by his vice-chairperson, Hon. Alamine Ousmane Mey, the Minister of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development for Cameroon, in a panel of Ministers that dealt extensively on the priority capacity development programs for African countries, post COVID-19, with a detailed account of the capacity challenges that countries face and how best ACBF can intervene and provide support. H.E. Adeyemi Dipeolu, the Special Adviser on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria also contributed to this vibrant discussion.
The Ministers agreed that though saving lives in their respective countries, was a priority, sustaining the economy to preserve livelihoods was also vital, and ensuring a balance between the two has been one of the most challenging tasks that Governments are working on. The peculiarity of most if not all African economies is the significant role that the informal sector plays, which has made the countries more vulnerable in time of lockdowns, with the potential of further contributing to one of the worst economic meltdowns that the continent has ever experienced. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that Africa’s informal sector’s average size as a percentage of gross domestic product in sub-Saharan Africa is 41%. It is also a huge employer. It represents about three-quarters of non-agricultural employment, and about 72% of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa. With the lockdowns in place, a lot of livelihoods have been affected, as not much significant economic activities have taken place. This is beside threats of new unemployment cases emanating from Tourism and service sectors which have been most hit by the measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Hon. Alamine Ousmane Mey, called on ACBF to support Governments in building the resilience of African institutions to better handle the effects of Covid-19 and any other pandemics or disasters of such magnitude. He reckoned that ACBF can provide Governments with the knowledge to better understand and quantify the impact of COVID-19 mitigating measures like lockdowns and how countries can maintain a balance between saving lives and saving economies. He also echoed the need to build capacity for the critical skills required for countries to withstand the effects of the pandemic and more importantly to transform African economies through diversification, post COVID-19.
H.E. Adeyemi Dipeolu propounded on the dire need for African countries to rely on the African Union’s Specialised Agency for capacity building, ACBF, in enhancing leadership in terms of putting in place proper structures for planning and coordination, as this is key in mitigating the impacts of COVID-19, and also recovery post-COVID-19. He explained that since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Africa, governments have been implementing interventions on a piecemeal approach as they have not taken time to systematically plan on how to deal with the pandemic. No solid leadership structures have been put in place in most countries to fight the pandemic as well as strategize on how to recover economies post COVID-19. With ACBF’s support, African governments can capacitate its leaders with the specialized skills to manage the pandemic. Transformative leadership at all levels is what it will take to ensure policy coherence, and a holistic approach to dealing with the effects of COVID-19, as the pandemic, has affected all sectors of the economy.
Whilst he expressed his gratitude to ACBF for the contributions made so far in capacitating countries, Hon. Ofori-Atta called on countries to support ACBF to better respond to the capacity needs of countries by giving it the necessary financial support to function more effectively. In times of global pandemic, African countries depend most on their institutions as the whole World is in an outcry and dealing with the challenge of limited resources to deal with this pandemic. The Minister provided a situational analysis of Ghana’s challenges in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic and also elaborated on the efforts being made by his Government to recover from the pandemic including the Agenda 88 which targets to build 88 hospitals across all districts in Ghana in the next two years. The Finance Minister also highlighted the need for cooperation amongst African countries in procuring supplies and medication.
Hon. Alamine Ousmane Mey further called for the need to anticipate reforms to preserve African economies, citing that skilled human resources and strong institutions are what it will take for Africa to succeed, and ACBF is the institution to provide this support. ‘Through solidarity, oneness; Africa can pull together resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic,’ the Honourable Minister went on to say.
The Brainstorming Session concluded with no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic, has further amplified Africa’s capacity gaps, and is a wakeup call for Africa to strengthen its capacities for policy planning and coordination for better disaster management and resilient building. The vulnerability of the health sector and other sectors need to be dealt with systematically and coherently. COVID-19 is more than a disease. Rather it is a crisis with multidimensional and multilevel consequences, requiring multilevel and multidimensional capacity-building strategies and interventions. ACBF is expected to support countries and stakeholders in strengthening their human and institutional capacities.