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Vaccines, digital infrastructure will prosper Africa – WTO, U.S.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations say access to vaccines, digital infrastructure, and women and youth inclusion will propel economic prosperity in Africa.

This was disclosed in a virtual conversation entitled: “It’s Your Turn! Africa’s Recovery Talk Series” hosted by Mrs. Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Monday.

High-level participants at the conversation were: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), and Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Okonjo-Iweala said Africa was doing well before the COVID-19 and gave an all-African approach to driving prosperity on the continent.

She said “We have to talk of one important thing that will bring Africa back on that sustainable path and that is the vaccine inequity.

“The second is youths and digital. Our youths are our resource and more than 40 percent of them are on the internet doing amazing things, starting amazing businesses.

“I am very hopeful that if we can encourage our youths and improve our digital infrastructure, digitize our trade even, that can help.

“The other is women and micro, medium, and small enterprises inclusion. If we can empower our women and get liquidity to our micro, medium, and small enterprises and both work in tandem, because about 50 percent of many of these enterprises are owned by women, I think that will help us propel a recovery.”

The WTO director-general lauded the efforts of African governments in their responses to the all-African approach to the pandemic and in regional governance.

“It shows we can act as one and many innovations are put in place.

“All of these gave us the leverage we needed to dialogue with the rest of the world and think it will result in more vaccines in the next few months. A continental approach is the first thing,” she noted.

She also commended the efforts of the UNECA in adding resources and liquidity to the continent.

“One thing that you have started in the UNECA, you are trying to put in place a liquidity and sustainability facility to get to start a repurchase market on the continent, which we do not have, so we have a way of increasing demand of our sovereign bonds, bringing down the price making liquidity more available on the continent.

“That will put additional resources into the pockets and the revenues of our governments and that can help us drive prosperity,” she emphasized.

Meanwhile, Thomas-Greenfield stressed that the issue of prosperity equaled the future and hope for Africa.

She said “The U.S. sees this as an essential step in achieving our goals that if there is a prosperous Africa, we are all successful. That means ensuring multilateral vaccine response to the pandemic.”

The ambassador said the U.S. was committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccine efforts demonstrated at home.

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“AU member states will receive approximately 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to enhance coverage across the continent, contributing to the AU target of vaccinating at least, 60 percent of the African population,” she said.

She also pointed out the importance of magnifying the entrepreneurship of youths and women to help create jobs and opportunities to allow for investments in their countries.

“We must also work collectively with women and youths to face the devastating impacts of climate change,” she said.

‘It’s your turn!’ talk series was launched to generate innovative ideas for growth that translate into actions for positive and lasting change.

Over the coming months, industry leaders, celebrities and experts will have dialogues with the executive secretary to share their visions on what growth for Africa will be post-pandemic and what they will do to drive prosperity.

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