International organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and others have recently called for international support for Africa in the fight against COVID-19 and its social, environmental and economic impact. UNCTAD, UNECA and Oxfam are among those who have issued calls. What caught by attention is the call made by the former president of Nigeria, Olusegu Obasanjo, co-signed by eleven former African presidents. The list of signatories is testimony to the positive and profound changes that have taken place in Africa, notably the fact that elections have gotten rid of African presidents for life.
The former presidents appealed to leaders and elites at national, regional, and continental level and to international organisations and foundations to “draw up a concrete, effective, and continental emergency plan to combat COVID-19 onslaught at its crescendo in Africa”. In particular, they called on the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank and G-20 to urgently have a plan that will moderate the social and economic effect of the onslaught of COVID-19 on Africa. On the face of it, the call was right and timely, and regional and international cooperation is definitely needed. But the presidential call is to me a shocking reminder that Africa is not resilient enough and continues to be dependent, notably on institutions that overseen and guided African policies for years. This situation is, to some extent, the legacy of the same former presidents.
While former presidents have the right to call for assistance, I also feel they have the moral obligation to speak out. They know best the inner working of politics, political economy, international relations, corruption, mis-management and other malpractices. By doing so, they could possibly trigger the desire for a real and meaningful awakening of Africa by trying to highlight big issues faced by the continent and humbly suggest solutions. It is also fair to say that some countries have made some progress under their leadership. Nevertheless, complacency hurts and “some progress” is not good enough.
It is now time for preparing bold and ambitious undertakings at the continental level to speed up economic transformation to put Africa on the path of a sustainable, inclusive, resilient development with a social face. Surely, the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is commendable. The suffering today must be met with more fundamental changes, starting with speeding up the implementation of decisions already made. It is a shame that the Monetary Fund (AMF), whose statutes were adopted by the African Union in 2014, cannot play its role in the current situation.