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G. Jonathan: Address to UPF-Africa “Peace Talks” Webinar

Address to UPF-Africa “Peace Talks” Webinar, July 4, 2020

I commend UPF for the sustained conversations around peace and development since the outbreak of Covid-19 that has continued to ravage our world. This edition of Peace Talks, “Rebuilding and Renewing our Nations in the Post-Covid-19 World: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values,” no doubt charts a new course towards the peaceful development and security of our continent.

I appreciate Your Excellencies President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Catherine Samba-Panza and President Hery Rajaonarimampianina for taking time to participate in this webinar.

On behalf of ISCP-Africa, I also extend my prayers and thoughts to President Macky Sall of Senegal who was earlier scheduled to join us in this conference but had to go in self-isolation in compliance with the Covid-19 protocol after coming into contact with someone who was Covid-19 positive. This is a demonstration of exemplary leadership. I urge others to follow these steps, as compliance with the protocols laid down by our health experts is the surest way to win the battle against the pandemic.

ISCP-Africa also wishes President Amos Sawyer (President of Liberia, 1990–1994) full recovery and complete healing, as we are aware that he recently went through medical surgery. It is our prayer and hope that he will bounce back to sound health very soon and join us in future conversations. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis in all ramifications, with more than 11 million reported cases across the world, more than 5 million recovered cases and over 500,000 deaths. With the pandemic, millions of people have continued to suffer job losses, and economic activities have been at a standstill.

In Africa, there are about 446,151 reported cases, 214,568 recoveries and about 10,877 deaths. The highest number of cases is in South Africa, with about 177,124, and the lowest in Lesotho, with 44. In Nigeria, my home country, there are 27,564 reported cases, 11,069 recoveries and 628 deaths.

This pandemic has put the entire world into a crisis of emergency. In Africa, we are confronted with challenges on many fronts: governance, health-care systems, economies, and livelihoods amidst the crises of trust and insecurity. The Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened the development crisis in Africa, considering the already fragile state of our continent. The 2020 Fragility Index released by Fund for Peace puts Africa as the most fragile continent in the world. Over 40 countries out of the 60 most fragile states globally are in Africa. The World Bank has also predicted negative economic growth for African nations unless adequate measures and sound economic policies are taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. 

Africa has one of the lowest rates of intraregional trade globally due to conflict and instability—18% intraregional trade, compared with the European Uni’s rate of 68% intraregional trade. The Covid-19 pandemic will further affect the volume of trade in Africa. As global economies continue to shut down with supply chain disruptions, the uncertainty for our continent, already grappling with widespread political and economic instability, continues to increase.

This pandemic is also a bitter lesson and huge signal for Africa about the condition of its health care systems/infrastructures. The developed countries have shut their doors, and even wealthy Africans cannot travel to these countries for medical care.  

The Covid-19 pandemic places urgency of action on African leaders to move from plans to implementations of different developmental strategies. I am particularly optimistic that conversations such as this will chart a new course towards building a new world having interdependent, peaceful and just nations in Africa. 

What changes can we bring to bear to enable us to manage governance structures and democratic processes in Africa? How do we manage our political issues to reduce conflict and promote good governance? How can we improve our economies to withstand the negative impact of this pandemic?

How do we create jobs and opportunities for our youth across the continent? We need contributors, business owners, and executives to support the training and development of these African youth. With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa accounts for some of the youngest population in the world, and it keeps growing rapidly, expected to double by 2050. It is a challenge, but also it represents an enormous potential for economic and social growth, especially in a post-Covid-19 world. Job creation is an emergency issue for national security.

How do we achieve all these with the economic downturn that Covid-19 has brought in its wake? Africa, although the least affected in terms of mortality rates, may be worst hit economically due to the already fragile condition of our states.

How do we stabilize our states to increase regional trade among our countries and attract more foreign direct investments post Covid-19? We have situations in some African countries where even governments cannot promote investments because of insecurity in many areas.

What can we do collectively to stem the free flow of small arms and light weapons that fuels insecurity and violence in Africa? How can we create peaceful societies with credible and peaceful electoral processes in Africa?

How do we plan future generations for the use of digital technology in Africa? And how can the continent be strengthened to withstand future pandemics or any other global crisis? What are the shared lessons and opportunities that we can take from this situation?

Africa must do something radical to tackle the challenges occasioned by this pandemic. We can’t continue to wait for other nations to come build our lands. So, Africans, it is time to build a newer world. 

I am convinced that the caliber of leaders we have on our panel today will diligently interrogate the topic and proffer solutions to the benefit of our continent and the world at large.

To go back to the UPF-Africa Peace Talk article, click here.