By Ebrima S. Jallow,
Information officer, MoFEA
Hon. Minister of Finance, Mambury Njie on the 22nd and 23rd March 2021 attended the 53rd Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on the theme: “Africa’s sustainable industrialization and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID-19 and participated in a high-level ministerial panel discussion dubbed the Big Debate that focused on the question: “Was the multilateral system prepared for the COVID-19 crisis and did the private sector do enough?” This session brought together finance ministers, thought leaders, policy makers, international finance executives to interrogate this question, and strategically chart a sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in the digital era.
In his intervention, the Honourable Minister posited that the multilateral system was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, however, over the past years, there has been persistent erosions on the core tenets of multilateralism and this has diluted the effectiveness and efficiency with which the system would have ordinarily dealt with shocks like COVID-19. He cited as proof of this, international scientific collaborations to understand the nature of the coronavirus, research to develop vaccines, support through the debt service suspension initiative, the provision of liquidity to power healthcare and social safety nets and of equal importance the provision of supportive elements such as COVID-19 related knowledge products, and data to guide interventions through coordination and collaborative policy platforms.
Despite these critical responses to curb the pandemic, Hon. Njie pointed out that, there are however, a caveat to this position. The Minister pointed out that challenges such as unilateralism, protectionism, nationalism, fragmented global leadership, distrust for multilateral institutions, and the crumbling of the common values that tie the world together at the multilateral landscape had negatively affected the effort to curb the COVID-19 crisis at a time it was most needed.
He further adduced that if multilateralism is to stand on a better footing to deal with pandemics like Covid-19 in the future, criticisms meted against it as well as opportunities for its reorientation should be addressed in a comprehensive and urgent manner.
Regarding the answer on the way forward and how to eradicate the fragility of the multilateral systems, Hon. Mambury Njie suggested that the solution could lie within a measured approach where strategic reforms would be rolled out in the global economic systems within the framework of renewed commitment to multilateralism.
By the same token and reflecting on the contributions of the private sector in response to Covid-19 in the continent, Hon. Njie highlighted some contributions of the private sector including the supply of health-related goods and services.
However, a gap that was very evident relates to the inability of many businesses to repurpose and restructure for continuity within the context of the pandemic and its associated lockdown measures. Also, the absence of research and innovation within business models curtailed the potentials for many businesses, with the same being true in the case of compatibility for international linkages.
Finally, the Hon. Minister concluded by stressing that COVID-19 has created an opportunity to press the reset button on multilateralism as we know it. This will promote not only shared prosperity and win-win relationships among nations but also create a conducive ecosystem for Africa’s private sector development within both this COVID-19 era and in a post COVID-19 world.