COVID-19 exposes weaknesses of Africa’s economies, says Okonjo-Iweala

    Bola Bamigbola

    Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Saturday charged leaders of countries in Africa to work on several opportunities the coronavirus had created to rebuild the continent’s economy.

    The economic expert said the advent of the pandemic exposed weaknesses of economies on the black continent.

    Okonjo-Iweala, while delivering a virtual lecture at the 15th convocation of Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, where she bagged a honourary degree of Doctor of Science in Technology, however, suggested six ways the governments on the continent could benefit from the opportunities exposed by the novel virus and build their economy in post-COVID years.

    The former minister, who called for diversification of the economy through industrialisation, stressed the need to add value to raw materials and create jobs for the vast youth population on the continent, noting that Africa imports 94 per cent of its pharmaceuticals for a population of 1.3 billion.

    She said coronavirus should provide the opportunity for the continent to develop medium supply chains of pharmaceuticals.

    She also called for digitisation of the economy and implored the governments to prioritise micro, medium and small scale enterprises.

    She said with over 90 million estimated SMEs on the continent, only 15 per cent were formally registered.

    She said, “COVID-19 has highlighted the existing structural and institutional weaknesses of Africa’s economy but it has also cast a light on existing opportunities and opened up new ones. Africa must seize all these factors to re-fashion its economy and build it with more resilience.

    “COVID-19 brought into relief Africa’s undiversified commodity-dependent economy. The lack of diversification relates to both products and sources of revenue.’’

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