African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina says an accelerated global health and economic effort is needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.
Stating that "one death is one too many" and that "our collective humanity is at stake," Adesina urged U.S. and African government officials and corporate executives to forge new and sustainable partnerships that would endure beyond the pandemic.
He made the call during a global Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) webinar. The CCA is a leading U.S. business association that promotes business and investment between the United States and Africa.
Urging participants to be their brother's and sister's keepers, Adesina said there was a compelling need to pay attention to underlying global inequalities, and the impact on rich and poor countries.
Corporate Council on Africa President and CEO Florie Liser lauded the African Development Bank's proactive leadership role in responding to the crisis in Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to erase Africa's unprecedented growth and economic gains over the last decade, she said.
The webinar was moderated by Citi Bank's Peter Sullivan, who said the pandemic was unprecedented in terms of its health, social, economic, and financial impact. "The crisis has significantly hurt economic activity across multiple sectors, including tourism, transportation and commodities."
Adesina highlighted the Bank's recent $3 billion "Fight COVID-19" bond, the largest ever US dollar-denominated social bond. The bond, oversubscribed at $4.6 billion, is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The Bank also launched a $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility to assist African governments and businesses.
The Bank's response package includes $5.5 billion earmarked for African governments, $3.1 billion for countries that fall under the Bank's concessionary African Development Fund and $1.4 billion for the private sector.
Fielding several questions about Africa's healthcare system, Adesina said the region needs to more than double spending in the sector. He cited the acute shortage of facilities and pharmaceutical companies on the continent as development and investment opportunities.
While China is home to 7,000 pharmaceutical companies, and India 11,000, Africa by contrast has only 375, even though its population is roughly equal to half of the combined population of both Asian giants.
Adesina urged multilateral institutions to align and step up their collective efforts with regard to Africa's debt, manage their ratings, and work together with rating agencies.
While COVID-19 infection rates are relatively low compared to the rest of the world, there is a growing sense of urgency given the acute absence of healthcare infrastructure on the continent.
With an eye on the present crisis and beyond, Adesina called for urgent, new and resilient partnerships that will help leave no one behind.
Gershwin Wanneburg, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank