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Coronavirus: Africa’s business leaders commit to fighting COVID-19

African private sector has a major part to play in supporting governments to defeat COVID-19 in Africa. That is one of the main messages from an emergency session of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa’s partnership initiative, African Influencers for Development (AI4Dev). Some of Africa’s top business leaders joined UNDP Africa to focus on the actions needed for a coordinated continent-wide response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The AI4Dev initiative is at the heart of UNDP’s new partnership strategy for Africa, engaging with African champions who are already working to drive sustainable development across the continent. It is a powerful coalition of current and future African leaders in business, academia and the arts on one big platform to help Africa steer its own development agenda.  Founding members include Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank; Rob Shuter, President of MTN; Dr. James Mwangi, CEO of Equity Bank; Temitope Shonubi, founder of Sahara Energy; Samaila Zubairu, President of Africa Finance Corporation; Dr. Amy Jadesimi, MD of LADOL; Admassu Tadesse, President of TDB; Samba Bathily, CEO of ADS; Dr. Edem Adzogenu, co-founder of the AfroChampions Initiative; and Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Founder of blue moon and Ethiopian Commodities Exchange.

“The private sector has a major role to play as we can move very quickly to bring our assets and expertise to work,” said Rob Shuter, President of MTN.

Dr. Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of LADOL, an indigenous Nigerian sustainable industrial zone, says any response must be collaborative: “Africa needs different solutions from the rest of the world, and we need to find those solutions together. We have an opportunity to come out of this stronger if we lean heavily into local manufacturing. But we must organize in order to bring to bear the strengths of African private sector in this response.”

Convening the meeting, Mrs. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa stressed the importance of a collaborative approach to the challenges posed by COVID-19. She said:  “UNDP is committed to work with the private sector in their unified response efforts, particularly in issues of procurement, governance, financing, communications and technology bringing our decades of expertise, supply chains and wide reach across Africa to mobilize the local private sector to get critically needed materials to the most vulnerable.”

The global pandemic COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of Africa’s economic and business landscape and redrawn the prospects for growth across the continent. According to the African Union’s Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has been documented in 52 African countries with rising numbers of cases. As governments start to deliver urgently needed social protection, the private sector can play a role in ensuring local supply including, where possible, through local production of urgently needed personal protective equipment and food.

African business can lead the way in strengthening preparedness through supporting procurement; response through unleashing networks of medical service providers and recovery through making available critical necessities.

Individually AI4Dev members are stepping up and showing their commitment through their own initiatives. For example, Afreximbank’s Prof. Oramah announced a $3 billion facility to help its member countries weather the socio-economic and health impacts of COVID-19. Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin is helping local SMEs to manufacture and distribute essential medical equipment.

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“We are currently running a campaign to manufacture and distribute 500,000 masks in Ethiopia in the coming weeks. Our network of small- and medium- enterprises are fast tracking 3D printing prototypes of low-cost materials, such as 3D-printed face shields and ventilator valves,” said Dr. Gabre-Madhin.

“Leveraging private sector support is integral to UNDP’s COVID-19 response and we look forward to seeing the footprint of Africa’s Influencers for Development,” concluded Ms. Eziakonwa.

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