On Wednesday, Corporate Council on Africa hosted day two of its inaugural Leaders Forum – a high level virtual forum to bring together heads of state, senior USG and African government officials, CEOs, private sector executives, and leaders from multilateral institutions.
Session two, titled, ‘Resiliency in Action: Economic and Health Innovations in Response to COVID-19 in Africa,’ featured opening remarks by Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique and business and government leaders from across the US and Africa tuned in to gain insight on steps being taken by African governments and the US and African private sector to fight the pandemic and mitigate the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
During a fireside chat moderated by CCA member, Bill Killeen, CEO of Acrow Bridge, President Nyusi noted the importance of having a collaborative approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In talking about Mozambique’s COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 response strategy, Nyusi said, “Our strategy is to lead the fight against the pandemic by opening the economy to make COVID-19 response management sustainable. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring that Mozambique remains an important destination for business now and after the pandemic.”
Day two of the Forum also featured a high-level panel moderated by Witney Schneidman, Senior Advisor for Africa, Covington & Burling LLP. Panelists discussed innovative steps they are taking to adapt to the new COVID-19 era and rebuild their businesses, economies and health systems across the continent.
Farid Fezoua, President and CEO, GE Africa emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of GE employees and customers, stating: “We had to adapt fast and establish new safety protocols particularly for employees on the frontlines as well as our customers. We had adopted digital and remote work for a while, but COVID put us in real situations and leveraging technology tools in this regard has been key.”
Gregory Rockson, Co-Founder & CEO, mPharma, discussed how mPharma sent over 800,000 test kits to countries across the continent by leveraging its supply chain infrastructure in Ghana. He urged that “Africa needs to build the critical infrastructure that is needed to prevent the next pandemic” by establishing regional alliances, where each region specializes to meet different needs across the health supply chain.
Jim Winkler, Vice President and Senior Director, Economic Growth Division, Creative Associates, commended the innovative partnerships that have been established as a result of the pandemic. He highlighted how Creative Associates has been supporting innovation by local SME’s during the pandemic through the provision of funds to create guarantees, promote piloting, and facilitate export and trade.
Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, Kenya, highlighted the need for greater self-sufficiency in terms of medical commodities.
“It is important that countries build some level of security around medical commodities and medical supplies,” she said. “The US-Kenya FTA provides an opportunity for us to create a much more predictable environment for investment by companies that supply these goods.”
Angela Wasunna, Vice President Global Policy, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer provided closing remarks. In her remarks, Wasunna highlighted Pfizer’s work to fight the pandemic in Africa to date. She noted that Pfizer Foundation has committed $40 million in medical and charitable cash grants. Wasunna closed out the session by summarizing key points made by speakers throughout the session, which include the need for investment in infrastructure and the need for partnership between the U.S. and Africa in the fight against COVID-19.
Building on the momentum of Wednesday’s session, the third day of the Leaders Forum, entitled, “Resiliency in Action: Drivers of Growth in Post-COVID Africa,” moderated by Acha Leke, Chairman, McKinsey Africa, will highlight sectors critical to post-COVID-19 economic recovery, such as ICT, finance, oil and gas and agribusiness.