Examining Global African Solidarity, Cooperation

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The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation recently examined global African solidarity and cooperation, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that the public lecture harped on the role of the African Union in solidifying such robust cooperation among member states

To examine global African solidarity and cooperation, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic, the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) recently held a public lecture.

Held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, the lecture was hosted by CBAAC Director General, Hon. Oluwabunmi Ayobami Amao (FITP), while the guest lecturer was Comrade Laoye Sanda, former Head, Department of Public Administration, The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State.

Also, the parley had discussants like former Permanent Secretary, Primary Health Care Board, Lagos State, Abiayo Olubukola Akinsiku; and Olusola B. Sokefun, PhD. Dept. of Zoology and Environmental Biology, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, while it was moderated by Dr. Tola Odubajo.

CBBAC’s Take

In her address, CBAAC DG, Hon. Oluwabunmi Amao, said the public lecture themed “Global African Solidarity and Cooperation in the Aftermath of a Pandemic: COVID-19 in Perspective”, was one of the centre’s programmes “instituted and consolidated for over two decades by my predecessors and devoted to discussions on issues of common concern to Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora. This is part of the mandate of the centre as a Pan-African cultural centre envisaged by its founding fathers.

”The topic for today’s public lecture is quite apt in view of its contemporary relevance. The COVID-19 has disrupted lives and livelihoods globally. Indeed, COVID-19 has triggered humanitarian and socio- economic crisis that has continued to devastate societies and even reversed vital gains made in human development with massive impact on peace, security and human rights.

“In responding to this challenge, African countries have shown leadership, both individually and collectively. At the continental level, the African Union has taken a number of initiatives to develop unified continent-wide strategies which has seen member states coming together in solidarity to fight the disease.

“ The mobilisation and cooperation among the AU’s member states in the wake of the pandemic has not only been exemplary to other continents of the world, but an indication of Africa’s real potential for transformation.

“Consequently, this lecture seeks to assess and analyze the various strategies that African governments have employed to collectively deal with the COVID-19 crises across the continent. How effective has the concept of African Solidarity been in the fight against the disease?

“As the world continues to grapple with this challenge, and as Africa continue to emerge from this health crises, what are the areas the continent and African Union leverage to have a robust cooperation and solidarity in confronting other current and future challenges? What other options are available for the African Continent in forging closer ties among its member states. These and many more are the questions this public lecture attempts to address.”

She added that African Solidarity is a concept that finds expression in the African spirit of compassion and togetherness which are rooted in the culture of the African people, adding that the African Culture promotes a sense of community and brotherhood, which are distinct features “embedded in our culture. We must continue to explore this for the betterment of our continent. In the face of daunting challenges such as the one we are confronted with, Africa must look inward for solutions to some of the challenges facing the continent”.

Structure

In his paper, Comrade Laoye Sanda said the topic was quite appropriate in terms of the “ great and numerous negative impacts of the COVID-19throughout the world and the frantic effort being made all over to find effective drugs and injections with due Medicare and individual personal hygiene habits to overcome the damaging effects in the short and long term.

He noted that the pandemic has put in question directly and indirectly the adequacy and resilience of both the World Health System and Medicare ability of all countries especially in the Third World, that is Africa, South America and South East Asia inclusive of India.

Thus, the paper was structured along COVID-19 pandemic issues, AU solidarity actions, cooperation scope, AU Secretariat Commission Report on successes and failures, elaborations on the reported failures and priority programs and projects to overcome the challenges.

Role of AU

The African Union (AU), an international organisation comprising all 54 independent states in Africa and Western Sahara. It was established in May 2001 to, among other things, promote regional integration, interstate solidarity, peace, good governance and to enhance the African voice in the global system.

But according to Sanda, the AU has been very successful in addressing the needs of the African political class but it is yet to make a significant difference in the lives of many ordinary Africans.

He noted that the importance of the pan-African organisation to African political elite is such that they would have created it today if it did not already exist.

“The AU has socialised African leaders to accept liberal values as the foundation of international cooperation in Africa; enhanced the agency of African political class on the world stage; and establishment progressive and innovative rules and norms for the African continent. It has also created many useful decision-making structures that have contributed to the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts in Africa.

“The AU has, however, been less successful in connecting its activities and programs to many ordinary Africans; providing common public goods and services valued by commoners in Africa; giving voice to the majority of young people in Africa; promoting intra-Africa trade, good governance, and financial independence of the African continent as well as struggled to address the expressed material needs and quotidian concerns of ordinary Africans,” he added.

Priorities Programs, Projects

The guest lecturer further proposed priorities programs to abate the failures and they include increased funding, training equipment, supply research international collaboration between African States to be coordinated by the AU Secretariat.

Posers

Quoting Eze Oyekpere view point column of the Punch newspaper Monday, August, 2020 pg. 24, he said “the major issues arising from the pandemic and the public noise around them are straightforward. How many hospitals and health centres have been refurbished from the proceeds of the new funds from the public and private sectors dedicated to health?

“How many new facilities have been built? Have we changed even superficially, our approach and management of the health sector? Which agencies and companies have benefitted from the Central Bank of Nigeria dedicated funds for the sector?”

Requisite Lessons

The guest lecturer further noted that it would be a waste of precious opportunity “if we only take the pains of the pandemic without learning the requisite lessons which will put us in a good position to tackle any future challenges.

“The fact that the pandemic is getting to a plateau and may be slightly receding and that a few Nigerians have died from it should not make us to miss the opportunity. It is within the context of the foregoing that the following recommendations are made.

“The first is that government must ensure that all the new funds and promises of money made on the pandemic are properly invested in a value-for-money approach. It is also a time to think through the value chain of the health industry, the economic opportunities including jobs, enhanced income, taxation and general value added to the economy that will arise from improved investments and service delivery in the sector.

“The first is that we must work towards universal health coverage where no one is left behind. We must properly cost the needed investments to ensure a drastic reduction in out of pocket expenditure for the health care of citizens.

“The payments for the new investments need not come from the public sector alone but the public sector must lead the way in terms of prioritising the sector through increased budgetary allocations which are not just appropriations on paper, but sums of money duly released and processes set up to ensure that the released funds are utilised in a corruption-free environment. This will entail designing procurement processes that deliver to the best specifications.

“The federal and state governments must ensure by law and health insurance becomes compulsory and universal and government will be under obligation to pay the premium for citizens, who are unable, for no fault of theirs to afford the premiums.

“The compulsory nature of health insurance will generate a large pool of funds that will be used to maintain quality care in the sector. Also, the private sector should be given tax incentives up to a reasonable limit for investments and donations to the health sector. For instance, the Lagos State Revenue Service stated it allowed up to 20 per cent of the value of donations to the pandemic cause to be set out of the 2012 tax assessments of the donor companies.

“Such companies could also be recognised by special awards from government and the industry under the leadership of the Ministry of Health. Special taxes could be created to increase resources available to health. These taxes could b specifically levied on alcohol, tobacco and ostentatious goods and services.

“Investments in local production and servicing of health machinery, pharmaceuticals, goods and commodities should be prioritised through a special fund that works with the Bank of Industry model to provide long term, low interest funding to the sector targeted at key manufacturing and local value added. It will build up a cluster of producing firms and human competencies in key areas that will provide the backbone for a strong medical sector that caters to the need of Nigerians.

“ Investments could also be expanded to specialist hospitals that attend to a specialised area of medicine equipped with human and material resources to be real centres of excellence that can attract medial tourists from Africa and beyond. Such hospitals must have access to 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply and retain our best hands.

“Instead of perpetually being a training ground for medical personnel who will move over to Europe, America and Asia because of poor remuneration and working conditions, we must design human resources for health scheme that keeps our best doctors, nurses and pharmacists, etc. in the country. With greater access to funds from public and private sources as well as the compulsory health insurance scheme, it will be easier to keep our best hands at home through competitive remuneration.

“These are just a few things that can be kick-started today and not a full list of what needs to be done to get the sector back on track. But the leadership of the federal and state ministries of health is fundamental to this health revolution.

“The national Council on Health must take on the challenge of drawing up a workable scheme and convincing the highest levels of leadership in the presidency and the respective governors to buy into such a scheme. It is doable but we need men and women, ministers and commissioners who can say – yes, we can.”

Recommendations

He further recommended that the AU Secretariat Commission should intensify efforts to attend to several handicaps in this sector, adding that such assistance should be extended throughout the AU Member Countries.

He further posited that the AU Secretariat Commission should also vigorously pursue greater African representation, participation and benefits from the UN Agencies which will further enhance its successes and alleviate the noted failures.

This is just as he charged them to rapidly boost African Economic Development through the AFCTA, adding that the main justification for fastest membership of the FCTA by all African Countries is the dismal IMF report on the COVID-19 Post Pandemic Economy in 2021 and beyond.

According to him, AFCFTA is expected to lead to the creation of a single continental market of more than 1.3 billion people with a combined annual output of $2.2 trillion. The transition phase to the Continental Free Trade Area alone could generate welfare gains of $16.1 billion and boost intra-African trade by 33 per cent.

Elucidating on the way forward he said, “All countries including those that have seemingly passed peaks in infections should ensure that their health care systems are adequately resourced. The international community must vastly step up its support of national initiatives, including through financial assistance to countries with limited health care capacity and channelling of funding for vaccine production as trials advance, so that adequate, affordable doses are quickly available to all countries.

“Where lockdowns are required, economic policy should continue to cushion household income losses with sizable, well-targeted measures as well as provide support to firms suffering the consequences of mandated restrictions on activity.

“Where economies are reopening targeted support should be gradually unwound as the recovery gets under way, and policies should provide stimulus to lift demand and ease and incentivise the reallocation of resources away from sectors likely to emerge persistently smaller after the pandemic.

“Strong multilateral cooperation remains essential on multiple fronts. Liquidity assistance is urgently needed for countries confronting health crises and external funding shortfalls, including through debt relief and financial safety net. Beyond the pandemic, policymakers must co-operate to resolve trade and technology tensions that endanger an eventual recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, he noted that other major crisis areas which both the Heads of States, Heads of Governments and AU Secretariat with its specialised commission must put utmost innovativeness, resourcefulness, courage and resilience are as follows: combating terrorism, gender and female child disadvantages, outbreaks of wars and conflicts, increasing debt problem which compromises future sustainable growth and development, brain drain, poverty, desertification, under industrialisation, unemployment, infrastructural inadequacies, pollution, non modernisation of the Health and Medical System which has been exposed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 calamities, corruption and rigged elections.