We need to build a different Africa – says Mo Ibrahim

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 June 2021:

2021 Ibrahim Governance Weekend concluded last week with a rallying call from Mo Ibrahim to use the Covid pandemic response to build a more self-reliant Africa.

Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on Africa, the 2021 Ibrahim Governance Weekend (IGW) heard that Africa has demonstrated strong and coordinated leadership in response to the pandemic, and the continent can now leverage the recovery from the crisis to build lasting change for generations to come.

Held in a virtual format for the first time, the IGW brought together prominent voices from across Africa and beyond, including 100 members of the Now Generation Forum, a network of young African leaders from over 40 countries.

Discussions were informed by the Foundation’s latest research: COVID-19 in Africa one year on: impacts and prospects, a comprehensive analysis of how the pandemic has impacted health, politics, society and economics in Africa.

Across the three days, contributors called for urgent action to ensure that Africa is vaccinated as soon as possible, and outlined the opportunities ahead for a sustainable, African-led recovery. Concluding the event, Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “Crises are useful in understanding what doesn’t work and how we need to change. We cannot continue to rely on old paradigms and empty commitments. We need to build a different Africa. We need to move forward and be self-reliant, leveraging the integration of our continent and the full potential of our youth.”

Photo: Mo Ibrahim speaking to panellists during the virtual 2021 Ibrahim Governance Weekend

The first session of the Ibrahim Forum – Lessons from the pandemic: an urgent call to strengthen Africa’s health capacities – explored the impact of COVID-19 on health systems, access to vaccines, and how African nations can address the critical issue of inadequate basic healthcare capacity.

Delivering the keynote address, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation, said: “The pandemic has underlined why it’s so important to invest in Universal Health Coverage, based on primary healthcare and strong community engagement. How can we take on a new and deadly virus if we cannot provide care for basics like maternal healthcare and the treatment of diabetes? Global health security begins in our local clinics and health systems.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Co-Chair, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, said: “How can we prevent it from happening it again? First, we must stop transmission of the current virus. This requires immediate action such as vaccine redistribution, provided in an equitable manner, worldwide. Second, we need to transform the international system of pandemic preparedness and response.”

Addressing the issue of vaccine inequity, Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC, said: “I have a message for the leadership of the G7, which is meeting very shortly. We need vaccines now and we need them quickly on the continent. Anyone who has excess doses of vaccines, the time is now to redistribute those doses so that we can vaccinate our people at speed and at scale. If we don’t do that, Africa will definitely move towards the endemicity of this virus on the continent, and that doesn’t bode well for our collective global health security.”

Prof. Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:The top priority now is to ensure global vaccine equity. This is not only a moral imperative, but also critical for pandemic control everywhere.”

Highlighting the opportunity to boost Africa’s homegrown manufacturing capacity, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization, said: “Investing in longer-term production capacity is very important. 80% of vaccine exports come from 10 countries, in North America, Europe and South Asia. We’ve seen that that concentration does not work. It is anomalous that a continent like Africa, with 1.3 billion people, imports 99% of its vaccines and 90% of its pharmaceuticals. Production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals ought to be better decentralised.”

Prof Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chair, Africa Europe Foundation Health Strategy Group, said: “We should trust in the capacity of Africa to innovate and contribute to the solution. Especially now, we should support the African leaders who are struggling to create in Africa the capacity to manufacture vaccines, drugs and medical tools, to stop this pandemic but also to help the continent be ready for the next one.”

Reeta Roy, CEO, Mastercard Foundation, said: “The pandemic is a crisis and an emergency, but it is more than just a public health emergency. It also taps right into some of the underlying economic risks and opportunities here on the continent.”

Gayle Smith, Coordinator for Global COVID response, US State Department, said: The US is looking at investment in local manufacturing both in the short-term – in some places injections of capital could increase production very quickly – but also in the long-term. The latter is important because Africa has a disproportionate dependence on vaccines produced outside the continent.”

Representing the Now Generation Forum, Mandipa Ndlovu, PhD candidate, Leiden University, said: “We really need to push not just for intergenerational conversation, but intergenerational cooperation. There are young people on the ground doing things that people at the top, who have seats at the table, are talking about, but there is just no communication and cooperation.”

Speaking during his one-to-one conversation with Mo Ibrahim, Charles Michel, President, European Council, said: “We need a global approach in order to address global challenges. This is my personal approach and it’s also the DNA of the European project… Even if sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes there are frustrations, the multilateral approach is the best tool we have in our hands in order to make progress together.”

In the second session – Managing the fallout: setbacks in democracy and rights, and new triggers of instability – panellists discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the political and social landscape across Africa, with setbacks to recent progress in education and gender equality, and is exacerbating social unrest.

Delivering the keynote address, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, said: “The pandemic has reversed many of the development gains we have witnessed in recent years and made our task of achieving the SDGs by 2030 even more difficult. For the first time in two decades, we are seeing a rise in extreme poverty. Many informal workers in Africa, the majority of whom are women, have lost their jobs or experienced a dramatic loss of earnings. School closures and digital divides are jeopardising hard-fought gains in learning. While progress towards gender equality might be pushed back a generation.”

Laurence Chandy, Director of Global Insight and Policy, UNICEF, said: “Of all the least visible effects of the crisis, those on learning come near the top. Although it is relatively easy to observe the number of kids who aren’t going to school, or the number of schools that have shut their doors, it’s much harder to quantify how far children are falling behind on their learning.”

Comfort Ero, Africa Programme Director, International Crisis Group, said: “You can use whatever language you want, but it all boils down to governance. The generation of today doesn’t want to go backwards, doesn’t want a continuation of the past, but is demanding change, and we’re going to see more protest by youth across the board.”

Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on democratic processes, Elhadj As Sy, Chair, Kofi Annan Foundation, said: “The paradox is, on the one hand, one will say that democracy is important and we should still move ahead and uphold elections in times of COVID-19. But at the same time, governments are restricting people from gathering, blaming COVID-19. We need to prepare for shocks and hazards, to respond to them and to create an enabling environment for the democratic process to happen, while protecting people at the same time.”

Patrick Youssef, Africa Director, International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “The pandemic has been devastating for areas affected by conflicts and violence, and where healthcare systems are weak. But we can all agree that, beyond the predicted fatalities directed from COVID-19, we are all concerned about the knock-on effects, the secondary reverberating impacts on people’s welfare and security at large.”

Representing the Now Generation Forum, Abiy Shimelis, Co-founder, Addis Sustainable Life, said: “As a young person, I feel let down… Young people are changing how we express frustrations and aspirations. We are not waiting for elections, we do it constantly through social media, protests, and civic activism. Young people try to have healthier ways to express frustration, but they need to feel they are being heard.”

The final session – Looking ahead: a key opportunity to reinvent Africa’s growth model – looked at the opportunity to create more resilient, sustainable and self-sufficient economies, in response to the pandemic laying bare stark vulnerabilities in Africa’s growth model.

Delivering the keynote address, Dr Donald Kaberuka, Special Envoy on COVID-19, African Union, said: “Africa’s demographic momentum is unstoppable. For a long time in the years to come, there will be more African doctors, more African engineers, more African farmers, more African economic actors than from elsewhere in the world. We have to figure out how, within the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, we provide opportunities for our young people.”

Representing Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO, AUDA-NEPAD, Hamady Diop, said: “At the regional level one of the challenges that we have is the issue of coordination. You may have different programmes that seem consistent and coherent at the national level, but when you put them together, they are misaligned.”

Highlighting the importance of investment for Africa’s economic recovery, Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said: “Governments need to continue, where possible, on the path of reform of the business sector, to ensure that we can attract more investment. And not just external investment, there is a lot of African investment that can go around.”

Rosa Whitaker, President and CEO, Whitaker Group, said: “This pandemic illustrates how profoundly dependent Africa is on the choices, the blunders, the actions, and even sometimes the self-interest, of others. So, as we look for a post-pandemic recovery, we should look to dismantle Africa’s dependency on western countries. One thing we could start with is vaccine dependency.”

Sandra Kramer, Africa Director, European Commission, said: “The donor-recipient thinking is behind us. What we are talking about here are equal partnerships, with responsibilities on both sides of the equation. We see partnerships as something that is to do with our policy priorities and interests, but obviously also with the interests and policy priorities of our African partners.”

Representing the Now Generation Forum, Ma Soukha Ba, said: “All the challenges Africa is facing are business opportunities for the youth. We are trying to solve each challenge, one at a time. But the problem is, we are facing multiple constraints.”

During the IGW, H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, Former President of Niger, was honoured as the recipient of the 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in Africa Leadership. Speaking during his one-to-one conversation with Mo Ibrahim at the conclusion of the weekend, President Issoufou said: “I am passionate about African integration and I can see that this is a passion that you, Mo, also share. We will work hand in hand to bring about the Africa we want: a prosperous Africa, a united Africa, a peaceful Africa, and an Africa managed by our children.”



  1. There was once a rich influential merchant that was happily married to the stoic statue of a beautiful woman carved in pure refined Gold; The rich merchant was a good man that tried to do the best he could for his community and the rest of the world; So one day he decided to approached a group of bandits that were the rulers of a certain impoverished province and made them an offer he thought they couldn’t refuse; “Rule with Patience and Temperance your little provinces with diligence and without violence and after five years I will reward you; I will give each of you a treasure chest full of diamonds and also build you massive Castles made of Gold if your work is found pleasing to my eyes after a period of 5 years.”

    But the old bandits shrugged him off and laughed saying; “We can build huge Castles made of Gold on our own,and why must we wait for a Treasure chest full of diamonds coming from you when we already have tunnels flowing ceaselessly with rivers of of blue diamonds?”Folks,that’s the story of Mo Ibrahim; A good man trying to inspire African leaders to get things right but all to no avail; The rewards he is offering them for good governance is a drop in the bucket compared to what these guys can earn during their tenure in office; Its not an attractive offer for men who can become billionaires just like him overnight.

    Sincerely,what the Mo Ibrahim foundation needs to do to transform Africa for the better is to start technical, agricultural and vocational training programs and then go from there; Pay attention to the poorest people and forget the greedy politicians – Empowerment must begin at grassroots level and not at the top.(lol)

  2. All the speakers are perfectly correct with their views and one more thing our elders in Africa should include we the young ones in decison making for everlasting change in Africa. We have all the resources and raw materials in Africa. My question here is why we still poor and depending on Europeans and Americans? Why our Africa leaders do not come together and make our continent a better nation to live? Our colleagues are dying in the Mediterranean Sea to cross Europe. Up to date this issue can not be resolved. From Mohamed F Kargbo, Sierra Leone.

  3. There is no other pan Africanist amongst his generation that contributed so much, in trying to improve Africa’s governance structures that have held millions of his fellow Africans to servitude, ignorance and want.MO Ibrahim, a true son of the African continent, have been busy beating the drum, and being one of those rear commodities, and torch bearer of the fight against corruption in the African continent. This Sudanese telecom Billionaire, is truly a man that like to put his mouth where his money is. And rightly so. One of the key pillars that he identified as acting like a log jam to the continents development goals is corruption. Hence the MO Ibrahim foundation, that encourages African leaders to work in improving the quality of life for their people. The criteria for winning the 5 millions dollars retirement award for retired President after their terms of office expired , as laid out by his foundation is:tackling corruption, respect for freedom of speech, and the rule of law, human rights, and investing a sustainable economic growth that will lift citizens out of poverty and want.

    There are many ways that this road map to success could be followed abd achieve. Its not rocket science. Investing in infrastructure projects, like good roads,electricity power projects, protecting the environment, education, health, housing, clean water, and above all eles investing in technological advancements. African countries, that don’t want to be left behind in the post Covid19 pandemic economic rat race, this are just some of the initiatives African governments needs to undertake to stand a fighting chance. Does president Bio in his retirement age, stands a chance of winning this prestigious MO Ibrahim foundation award? No I wouldn’t hold my breath. Because so far all his pet projects, are out of sync with the reality of the economic fundamentals that a country like ours needs, to say we are in the right direction for any future economics prospects.

    The danger of course, maybe after five years of his one direction government, we will wake up to the reality it has been another wasted five years due to incompetence , lack of coherent economics policies, and worst corruption and corrupt public officials have never had it so good under Bio. Which goes against the winds of change, MO Ibrahim is advocating.

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