JOHANNESBURG — The African Union (AU) has appointed former president and chairman of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka and several other dignitaries as special envoys to help mobilise international support for Africa in its quest to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The envoy team, which was named by the AU chairman, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, also includes former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and Tidjane Thiam, former chief executive officer of Credit Suisse.
The envoys will be tasked with “soliciting rapid and concrete support” pledged by the G20, the European Union and other financial institutions, Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
President Ramaphosa also observed that, “the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates co-ordinated 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.
– Profile of Envoys –
Donald Kaberuka, a former president and chair of the board of directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has also previously served as finance minister of Rwanda. In 2016, he was appointed as a special envoy of the AU on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and development expert who served two terms as Nigeria’s minister of finance. She has also served as MD of the World Bank.
Trevor Manuel has served as minister of finance in South Africa (SA) and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an investment envoy by President Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
Tidjane Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former CEO of Credit Suisse and also served as CFO and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Co.
– Coronavirus –
The virus has arrived late in Africa compared to elsewhere but is spreading rapidly in some countries, and the continent is highly vulnerable to declining trade and tourism as well as falling prices for oil and mineral exports.
According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa could slip into its first recession in a quarter of century because of the coronavirus pandemic on the world’s most impoverished continent.
“We project that economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1 percent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years,” the Bank said in an assessment on Thursday.
However, President Ramaphosa, remained optimistic and said the appointed envoys bring with them a wealth of experience and enjoy longstanding relationships in the international financial community.
“The AU 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,” he said.