Ngozi Okonjo Iweala – ‘African Countries need debt Restructuring to support their Economies’
Written by Ogbodo Emmanuel on May 26, 2021
African countries need debt restructuring to support their economies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said yesterday.
She spoke at a virtual UBA Africa Conversations to mark the 2021 Africa Day.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said debt restructuring will allow African economies to breath and begin major recovery as seen in advanced economies.
The event moderated by the Group Chairman, UBA and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu, was also attended by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; Director-General of the World Health Organisation(WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Managing Director, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Makhtar Sop Diop.
On trade, Okonjo-Iweala, said African countries needed do everything to ensure that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) succeeds.
“I really believe in the AfCFTA. I am proud our presidents have done this… though there are still logistical issues that prevent us from benefiting. Some parts of the continent are doing a lot better than others. We still have lorries lying up at borders,” the WTO D-G said.
“In East Africa, they are doing a little bit better with movement across borders. That also means investment in infrastructure. We can make the movement of goods and people work better.
“We have this AU passport, so business people can get one and ordinary Africa so that we can move easily across Africa. I am very hopeful.
“If we want the African continent free trade area to work, we must make good, services and people flow easily across borders. I am very hopeful, really hopeful.
“Lastly, we don’t really have a choice, if we want to change the tenor of growth in Africa, rely more on ourselves, and less on the outside, if we want to export and specialised more, to add value to our raw materials, we’ve got to make the AfCFTA work and the WTO is expectant and waiting to support the continent to make this work.”
On recovery of African economies, Okonjo-Iweala advised the continent on the need to solve health crises, diversify get more fiscal stimulus into the economy, and revive the service sector — such as logistics and tourism. “In the medium and long terms, we have to diversify our economy and take advantage of the Africa free trade agreement.”
Also speaking, Elumelu said digitization of businesses across Africa will come with huge benefits to the economies. “Digital technology can create jobs and lift productivity. We need to assist the young ones to drive the technological sector in Africa,” he said.
According to Elumelu, the theme this year is ‘Bringing Africa to the World’, epitomised by the global success of the panellists’ careers.
At a time of unparalleled African leadership in global organisations, the UBA Africa Conversations provides the opportunity for an African and global audience to hear directly from our distinguished guests on Africa’s relationship with the world, the opportunities and the challenges, and their own personal journeys.