African Union (AU) chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Donald Kaberuka, Tidjane Thiam and Trevor Manuel as the African Union’s COVID-19 special envoys.
The newly appointed envoys are tasked with mobilising international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The special envoys will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions.
Serious economic challenges
“In the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.
“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment,” said President Ramaphosa.
Highlighting the sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists which underscores the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; President Ramaphosa said this can only be done with the support of the international community.
The AU chairperson said the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to this grave public health emergency.
President Ramaphosa said the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.
“The African Union is immensely encouraged by the support that has been extended by the international community thus far. It is an affirmation that as nations of the world, we are all in this together.
“We must now focus on efforts to marshal every resource at our disposal to ensure that this pandemic is contained, and does not result in the collapse of already ailing economies and financial systems on the continent,” Ramaphosa said.
Some background on the special envoys
Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as minister of finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has also served as managing director of the World Bank.
Kaberuka is an economist and former president and chairperson of the board of directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former finance minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a special envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
Manuel was the longest-serving minister of finance in South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018, he was appointed as an investment envoy by Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former chief executive officer of Credit Suisse and also served as chief financial officer and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.