President Uhuru Kenyatta: Young people are Africa’s biggest resource against COVID-19

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has challenged his African counterparts to tap into the innovative abilities of the continent’s youth as they roll out Covid-19 mitigation and recovery strategies.

The President said the youth are Africa’s biggest resource adding that young people’s creative minds and immense energy can be utilized to boost Coronavirus response measures.

“I also wish to reiterate that the biggest resource at our disposal is our own people and especially the youth.

“Indeed, we need to harness the digital revolution and innovation witnessed during this pandemic as a catalyst for post COVID-19 economic revival, and which is key in creation of jobs for our youth,” President Kenyatta said.

The President spoke at the State House, Nairobi during the 5th virtual meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).

The meeting convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who is the current Chairperson of the African Union, was also attended by Chairpersons of the African Union Regional Economic Communities (AU RECs).

President Kenyatta told the meeting held to assess the effectiveness of the joint continental strategy on Covid-19 as well as receive a progress report from the AU Covid-19 Special Envoys that cooperation among African countries has helped slow down the spread of Coronavirus on the continent.

“I am happy to note that the quick action by the Chair, coupled with the solidarity and concerted efforts demonstrated by the AU Member States, AU RECS, Regional Mechanisms, African Business Leaders and the Private Sector, have so far slowed down the spread of the virus and averted a full blown catastrophe in Africa,” he said.

The Kenyan Head of State revisited the recent Inter-Sessional Summit of the Organization of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), which he hosted in his capacity as the President-in-Office of the institution, saying the meeting helped consolidate the developing world’s voice on Covid-19 response and recovery.

“I encourage us to continue using these kind of platforms to elevate our position in the global arena, in articulating critical issues in relation to transcending the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly, on addressing the debilitating debt burden and its effects on the socio-economic wellbeing of our nations,” President Kenyatta said.

The AU Covid-19 Special Envoys panel was constituted by the AU Bureau on 12th April this year and comprises of Zimbabwean businessman and philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa, Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Ivorian banker Tidjane Thiam.

Other members of the panel, whose mandate is to advance Africa’s Covid-19 agenda in multilateral fora, mobilise resources for Coronavirus response and expand Africa’s access to Covid-19 response supplies in the competitive global marketplace, are former President of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka and Prof Mbaya Kakwenda of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In their report to the Bureau, the envoys said the African continent had managed to consolidate a Covid-19 response kitty of  60 million USD on its own and put in place a stimulus package equivalent to 0.68 percent of the continent’s GDP.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who made the presentation on behalf of her colleagues, said these amounts were inadequate and assured the Heads of State that through innovation, flexibility and equity in access to the global Covid-19 response resources, the continental has the potential to raise much more.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said her team welcomes debt relief measures announced by the G20 group of countries but promised to continue engaging with lenders for more interventions including debt cancelation for African states.

On his part, Mr Masiyiwa introduced the Heads of State to the Africa Medical Supplies Platform-a restricted new e-commerce portal where African countries can access Covid-19 medical supplies such as test kits, masks and reagents away from the competitive free market.

The new system, which is supported by among other partners, the Africa Export-Import Bank, consolidates global suppliers of Covid-19 equipment and medical consumables onto one platform.

According to Mr Masiyiwa, the prices offered on Africa Medical Supplies Platform are much lower than open market prices and the quantities available to African states are much higher than those assigned to countries by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Led by President Ramaphosa, the AU Bureau members thanked the envoys for the progress made in engaging with multilateral lenders on behalf of the continent and approved the roll out of Africa Medical Supplies Platform.

While lauding the envoys for their success especially in mobilizing resources, President Kenyatta called for the urgent deployment of the support.

“The support from our international partners and friends should be deployed urgently to augment ongoing efforts to cushion the most vulnerable,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the East African Community (EAC) where he is the current Chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the region is facing a challenge in the harmonization of Covid-19 response protocols.

The Rwandan leader assured that the EAC leadership will continue to work together to ensure seamless cross-border movement of cargo while at the same time protecting populations from Covid-19 infections.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi and his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde called for the lifting of economic sanctions against Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The leaders said lifting the sanctions will help unlock the resources needed to assist the two African nations respond effectively to the Coronavirus pandemic.

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