Joseph Ayikoi-Otoo

Joseph Ayikoi-Otoo

By Taiwo Okanlawon

The Ghanaian High Commissioner to Canada, Ayikoi Otoo, Esq has said one of Africa’s major challenges is identifying the different Economic classes.

He made this statement during the first webinar series of Africa Canada Trade and Investment Venture themed: COVID-19: AN AFROCENTRIC RESPONSE.

“Africa, despite its effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 in the continent experienced difficulties in identifying people in different classes,” he stated.

This is a major challenge most African countries face. They do not have the data of people in different economic class which makes it difficult for the government to provide the basic supply for people during the lockdown.

“Nigeria, for example, was one of the countries that experienced this and a group of people came out to protest because they couldn’t continue to abide by the lockdown rules because of hunger”.

In response to the statement made by the Ambassador, another guest speaker, Tinu Bruchanova, a digital strategist based in Canada, stated that African countries should make digital infrastructure a priority as they have slacked so much in this area over the years.

“Digital infrastructure will be one of the major solutions to Africa’s challenges if they make it a priority. They have focused too much on other areas leaving this aspect alone. Digital infrastructure will help capture people in different economic classes such as the unemployed, working-class, dependent and independent.

“Citizens need to know what their taxes are being used for and government can also streamline areas they want to address at every point in time. Businesses need to be connected to all the chains. Africa needs that digital currency to grow”.

In a follow-up webinar on the way forward for Africa Trade post-COVID-19, the Director, Trade facilitation Kenya Trade network agency Rose Rona, who was also a guest speaker, stated that the global value chain is not sustainable and that Africa’s GDP declined from 3.2% to 2. 8% during the pandemic.

She further stated that it is imperative that African countries reduce their dependency on Western Nations, otherwise they will continue to struggle during a crisis as witnessed in the COVID-19 pandemic due to lack of preparedness.

Rose Ronoh also highlighted the positive work which entrepreneurs in countries such as Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal have been doing around innovations of devices during the pandemic and advised that the continent needs to maximize the opportunities available to them.

She also added that African countries need to invest more in the health care system and the Government has a major role to play in collaboration with the private sector.

Africa Canada Trade and Investment venture is an organization that focuses on a values-based, ethical approach of creating platforms to allow trade and business in key sectors with demonstrable scale potential, profitable returns and sustainable growth. Their investment model aims to above all, generate wealth that contributes to economic development between Canada and Africa.

Also speaking on the webinar, the Executive Chairman, Owoniko Ranch, and Farms and Co-founder/ Executive partner Loftyinc Allied Partners Limited, Michael Oluwagbemi noted that African countries “do not need dollars” to build infrastructure.

“The opportunity is definitely is there. Businessmen see opportunities in challenges. It is not just about government; the private sector must take up the responsibility. The global supply chain is concentrated in one part of the world which had negatively impacted the global economy.

“African has a very good advantage, especially with raw materials. An area where we have a competitive advantage. We haven’t strengthened and resulted in seeking this outside the continent. Food is important so we must encourage agriculture.

A participant, Patrick Ogunnowo stated that Africa seems to be suppressing the curve so far, “It looks like it might escape the worst of the pandemic, but will have to be cautious about it. There is a possibility of a W curve. There is a good chance of re-occurrence of the curve, which could see a possibility of regular lockdowns. Businesses need to plan accordingly, and capital could flow to Africa if they can act efficiently to pull it in.”

He reiterated that global capital could flow to Africa if we can act efficiently to pull it in. Western economies are badly battered, while countries in Africa are not so battered. Capital will look for countries that are less battered. This is an advantage for African countries to strategies in being emergent Markets.

Another participant, Anthony Agbonkhese, CEO, Nerdiaconnect, Canada, highlighted that a lot of progress has been made on cross border trading corridors like the Mombasa-Nairobi Corridor; the Addis to Djibouti road, rail and port connect; and the Abidjan-Lagos corridor which handles more than 2/3 of West Africa trade.

In his opinion, intra Africa trade should be encouraged as the signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) will open up more trade channels between African countries.