Experts hold that the covid-19 pandemic may just be the right catalyst to transform the economy if only the opportunity is measured and seized.
As of June 1, over 6000 people in Cameroon have reportedly been infected by Covid-19. Beyond these numbers, it is hard to tell how many more have been indirectly affected, through poverty, hunger, job loss and security-related incidents. Information suggest that beyond Coronavirus, joblessness may be a deadlier virus, if not tackled now. At a recent virtual roundtable hosted by the New York Forum Institute, Tony Elumelu, Chairman of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), highlighted what might not have been obvious. According to him: “The pandemic presents an opportunity to reset Africa, create employment and eliminate poverty”. One is tempted to ask how? The response according to Elumelu is to seize the moment to reset because it provides the opportunity to place Africa on the right path of sustainability built on the bedrock of competitiveness. Economists have harped on the need to create more jobs, prioritise the youth, ensure access to electricity and stabilise the macroeconomic environment as additional focus areas needed at this time. So far, despite the cries of entrepreneurs and business owners of the times being difficult, government has thrown in several juicy packages to ease the burden. According to Prof. Kelly Mua, Finance Expert, fiscal breaks and tax deferrals are just some of several measures taken by government. At the monetary level, the liquidity ratio of banks has been adjusted which has enabled them to inject money into the economy with reduced interest rates on loans. To him, with these “any structured enterprise can thrive.” Meanwhile, as Cameroon eyes emergence by 2035 with several infrastructural projects underway, it is important that strides to diversify the economy (through strengthening the manufacturing sector) be intensified in order to generate needed funds. Panellists at the virtual roundtable hosted by the New York Forum Institute noted that Africa must embrace the new normal. The disruptions seen across sectors (healthcare, logistics, supply chain, digital economy, IT) are here to stay. This presents a unique opportunity for a united stand, a strong regional bloc acting in a coordinated fashion in response to this new era. To them, as globalisation, trade and foreign policy adjusts in response to these times, the continent will only enjoy more traction, increased leverage and more influence by forging a united front. It is thus time to leverage competitive advantage in agriculture, through focused investments in mechanisation, storage facilities, logistics, quality assurance, and processing, while strengthening expertise in textile, manufacturing, supply chain and much more.