Former Nigerian Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Saturday, highlighted six economic opportunities for Nigeria and other African countries as they strive to recover from the negative shocks of the pandemic.
She made this known today at the 15th Convocation of Bowen University in Iwo, Osun State.
Okonjo-Iweala, who is the leading candidate for the job of director-general of the World Trade Organisation, spoke on ‘Revisiting Africa’s Economy Post-COVID-19’.
The convocation lecturer said the impact of the pandemic on Africa’s economy has been devastating, urging African leaders to look inwards and grow capacities for their respective economies.
The former World Bank director said, “As Africa recovers from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, it must learn from the pandemic.
“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.
“Let me highlight six opportunities and approaches for re-fashioning a post-COVID-19 African economy.”
According to her, increasing the industrialisation on the continent will provide more jobs for Africa’s youthful population.
“COVID-19 brought into relief Africa’s undiversified commodity-dependent economy. The lack of diversification relates to both products and sources of revenue.
“Africa must manufacture more through value-addition to the raw materials it exports. The transformation of cocoa into delicious Ivorian chocolate provides a good example.
“There is no doubt that African countries need to make the requisite investment in infrastructure, skills, and a conducive business environment,” she said.
The former Economy Minister also harped on more digitisation of economic, health, and educational activities in Africa going forward.
One of the opportunities highlighted by the pandemic is the potential of the digital economy including e-commerce, e-learning, e-health, she said.
She noted that African governments must grow the continent’s about 90 million Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises through free registration, access to grants, soft loans, amongst others to ensure business owners grow and create jobs.
A post-COVID-19 African economy cannot grow unless there is continuous investment in Africa’s infrastructure, she stated, adding that investment in human development especially education and health is also key to Africa’s emergence post-pandemic.
Okonjo-Iweala added that the African government must improve governance and transparency and accountability.
“A post-COVID-19 modern African economy must be anchored on these values of open, transparent and accountable governance; governance that gives youths, women and other marginalized people increased voice,” she stated.