This was the topic of discussion during a virtual conference titled “It’s Your Turn! Africa’s Recovery Talk Series” hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on Monday.
Among high-level participants at the conference were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general at the World Trade Organization, and Vera Songwe, UNECA’s executive secretary.
Okonjo-Iweala said Africa was doing well before the COVID-19 pandemic and there was an all-Africa approach to driving prosperity on the continent. However, she said Africa has to discuss vaccine inequity, an important subject that will help bring the continent back on that sustainable path.
“An all-Africa approach and access to COVID-19 vaccines is how we drive prosperity and get back on a path to sustainable recovery,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
Songwe agreed and said that African countries had responded swiftly and boldly to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, but these responses have come at a cost to economic recovery.
“Whilst world economies are opening and moving into recovery, Africa grapples with a liquidity crisis. Vaccines are fast becoming the only economic route out of the pandemic,” she said.
“Yet, whilst some countries in other world regions are reaching nearly 50 percent of their populations fully vaccinated, most in Africa have yet to administer at least one dose to more than 1 percent of their population.”
The talks also revealed that Africa’s youth are an underutilized resource. More than 40 percent of African youth are doing inspiring things and starting amazing businesses on the internet.
“I am very hopeful that if we can encourage our youth, improve our digital infrastructure and digitize our trade, we can turn our young people’s lives around,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
“The other issue is women and micro, medium and small enterprises inclusion. We should empower our women and get liquidity to our micro, medium and small enterprises. About 50 percent of many of these enterprises are owned by women. I think that will help us propel a recovery.”
Okonjo-Iweala also commended the efforts of African governments in their responses to the all-Africa approach to the pandemic and in regional governance.
“All of these gave us the leverage we needed to dialogue with the rest of the world and I think it will result in more vaccines in the next few months,” Okonjo-Iweala said.