A Call to Global Leaders Spring Conference: The Time for Africa Is NOW!

From the 17th to the 19th of April 2020, senior officials from the World Bank, IMF, and G20 will meet online for their spring conference. The message from the African leaders—speaking with one voice and backed by evidence from Oxfam Report – regarding the colossal health and economic impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) across the Continent is clear: 

  1. Debt Relief for Africa – $40 billion for 2020 to give Africa the fiscal room needed to fight the pandemic.
  2. $150 billion aid package as part of an Africa Global Covid-19 Emergency Financing Package
  3. Multilateral and bilateral financial institutions must work together with commercial creditors in Africa, to defer loan payments and give Africa the fiscal space it needs.

To the African SMEs and African Entrepreneurs Support Organisations (ESOs), NOW is the time for YOU to make your voices heard. You are the life blood of Africa. African national, regional, and Pan-African leaders need to HEAR YOUR STORIES—  how you are the solution, how you are rising to the challenges of the pandemic in your business, communities, cities, countries and nations across the Continent.

This is an opportunity to Co-create polices that can translate into tangible acts and meaningful impact in and post Covid19 pandemic.

You (African SMEs and ESOs) can use the #SupportForAfricaSMEs hashtag to start the conversation, share your ideas which we will collate and share with the leaders of the African Union, Africa Development Bank and others leading the charge for Africa. You can also write directly to them.

On the 25th March, in an op-ed published in the Financial Times, Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed writes “if COVID 19 is not beaten in Africa, it will return to haunt us all”. He went on to say, “fragile and vulnerable at the best of times, African economies are staring at an abyss”. The economic effects of coronavirus in Africa will be immense. While “advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world”.

He appealed to G20 for an emergency package worth $150 billion to boost health spending, shore up foreign reserves and patch up social safety nets. He called on the World Bank’s investment arm to tide over African companies hit by disruptions to global supply chains, for IMF to increase its lending to poor countries and for existing debt to be rolled over or forgiven”. The Economist.

On the 6th April, this message was reinforced by the President of the Africa Development Bank, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, in an Op-Ed For CNN:

  • AfDB supports for the call by UN Secretary-General that debts of low-income counties be suspended. That all sanctions be lifted for now. To temporarily defer the debt owed to multilateral development banks and international fiscal institutions.
  • AfDB estimates that cost Covid-19 could cost Africa a GDP loss of £22.1 billion, in the base case scenario, and $88.3 billion in the worst-case scenario. AfDB is ready to deploy up to $50 billion over the next five years to help deal with the knock-on effects of Covid-19.

On the 7th April, Africa Union and Africa CDC launched a public-private partnership with the AfroChampions Initiative, known as the Africa Covid19 Response Fund to mobilise “African money and African expertise.” The partnership aims to raise $150 million for immediate needs to prevent transmissions and up to $400 million to support sustainable response to the Covid19 pandemic.

On the 9th April, Oxfam published Dignity Not Destitution which warns that “half a billion people could be pushed into poverty by coronavirus unless urgent action is taken to bail out developing countries”. Oxfam is calling on world leaders to agree an Economic Package for All to keep poor countries and poor communities afloat. It would enable poor countries to provide cash grants to those who have lost their income and to bail out vulnerable small businesses.

The UN estimates that nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. Michah Olywangu, a taxi driver and father of three from Nairobi, Kenya, who has not had a fare since the lockdown closed the airport, bars and restaurants, told Oxfam that “this virus will starve us before it makes us sick”.

Let me close with a quote “The fact is, if we do not collectively defeat the coronavirus in Africa, we will not defeat it anywhere else in the world. This is an existential challenge that requires all hands to be on deck. Today, more than ever, we must be our brothers and sisters’ keepers.”President of the Africa Development Bank. I call on you to engage with the debate that “The pandemic is no time for fiscal distancing.”

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