By Adedayo Akinwale
The African Union (AU) has appointed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Mr. Tidjane Thiam and Mr. Trevor Manuel as special envoys to mobilise international support for the continent to address the economic challenges African countries would face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairperson of the AU and the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, who disclosed this in a statement issued Sunday, said the Special Envoys would be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions.
He explained that the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to this grave public health emergency.
Ramaphosa noted that the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.
He stated: “In the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.
“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment”.
“The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community.”
Ramaphosa stressed that AU was immensely encouraged by the support that had been extended by the international community thus far, adding that it was an affirmation that nations of the world are all in this together.
According to him, focus must be on efforts to marshal every resource at our disposal to
ensure that this pandemic is contained, and does not result in the collapse of already ailing
economies and financial systems on the continent.
The AU chair said that Okonjo-Iweala was an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Minister of Finance of Nigeria, and she had also served as Managing Director of the World Bank, while Kaberuka an economist was President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB), stressing that he was also Finance Minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a Special Envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
He said Manuel was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in the Republic of South Africa and
formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission, adding in 2018 he appointed him as an Investment Envoy to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
Ramaphosa described Thiam as a banker, a businessman and a former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse and also served as Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Prudential, adding that he also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.