Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
12 Apr 2020
3:11 pm

Ramaphosa appoints Trevor Manuel and three others as Covid-19 AU envoys

Citizen Reporter

The AU chairperson says they will be tasked with ensuring the pledges of support from the international community translate into concrete action on the ground.

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel. Picture: Refilwe Modise

As chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed four special envoys on Sunday to “mobilise international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Former finance minster Trevor Manuel was named along with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Donald Kaberuka, and Tidjane Thiam.

The special envoys would be tasked with “soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions”.

Ramaphosa said: “In the light of the devastating socioeconomic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.”

He added: “The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community.”

Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as minister of finance of Nigeria. She also served as managing director of the World Bank.

Kaberuka is an economist and former president and chairman of the board of directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former finance minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a special envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for peace in Africa.

Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former chief executive officer of Credit Suisse and also served as chief financial officer and CEO of Prudential. He has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.

Manuel was the longest-serving minister of finance in South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an investment envoy by Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.

Ramaphosa said the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to the grave public health emergency precipitated by Covid-19.

The envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community, added the president.

“The African Union is immensely encouraged by the support that has been extended by the international community thus far. It is an affirmation that as nations of the world, we are all in this together. We must now focus on efforts to marshal every resource at our disposal to ensure that this pandemic is contained, and does not result in the collapse of already ailing economies and financial systems on the continent.”

The World Bank warned on Thursday that sub-Saharan Africa could slip into its first recession in a quarter of century because of the coronavirus pandemic on the world’s most impoverished continent.

“We project that economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1 percent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years,” the Bank said in an assessment.

The virus has arrived late in Africa compared to elsewhere but is spreading rapidly in some countries, and the continent is highly vulnerable to declining trade and tourism as well as falling prices for oil and mineral exports, it said.

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