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Op-Ed: Africa’s People-led Approach To Combat COVID-19 Shows Signs Of Progress And Leadership

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By Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

Brand Voice

Africa’s people-led approach to combat COVID-19 shows signs of progress and leadership

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Writes Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

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Building Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom

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“Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.” Swahili Proverb

An enduring lesson learnt throughout our 175-year existence is that, while things rapidly change around us, the things that truly matter don’t! The desire to keep learning and growing is one such thing that remains a driving force behind everything we do at Old Mutual. Education is central to this.

Responding to the Challenges

Aligned to both Sustainable Development Goal’s 4 (Quality Education) and 17 (Partnerships) as well as our Responsible Business philosophy, we’re working to share, connect, learn and grow together with the communities we serve through Education.

We believe in the power of Education to solve key social issues such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. By continuing to invest in Education today, we know that we can build a more prosperous future for the generations of tomorrow.

Old Mutual has partnered with authorities, experts, and practitioners in the field on a number of ongoing initiatives including:  

  • Dynamic and interactive Financial Education and Inclusion programmes that have reached millions across the African continent. Utilising an array of channels and leveraging off technology, the programmes impart valuable and often life changing principles that empower customers and communities to build and sustain their lifetime financial goals.
  • Investing in Schools, Teachers and Leadership to drive immediate and long-term impact in the Education sector. Old Mutual’ s Education Flagship Project – a longer-term programme with a seven-year investment cycle – is in place to connect the dots between learners, teachers and school leadership through innovative training that has paid off in improved results in affiliated schools.
  • Skills Development interventions such as Bursaries, Internships, Learnerships and Graduate Development programmes that seek to create sustainable job opportunities and placements for learners.

Introducing Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom to Bring It All Together!

In perhaps our most ambitious move yet, Old Mutual has committed to building Africa’s Biggest Digital classroom so that we can extend the Education-based work already being done across the Group to so many more.

This Digital Classroom is being designed to respond to the challenges of widespread education exclusion, low Financial Literacy rates on the continent, vastly uneven teacher-to-learner ratios, as well as accessibility to physical and financial resources that continue to hamper the success of the delivery of Education on the continent today, and into the future. 

Enabling Learning Through Digital Engagement

But why a digital classroom?

Our aim as a business, is to be able to effectively respond to an increasingly connected Africa with user-friendly, value-adding solutions and experiences that bring as many people along on this educational journey as possible. Designed with a generation of digital first, tech-savvy users in mind, but mindful of the wealth of knowledge coming through from past generations, Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom will enhance the capabilities of past and present, to shape a brighter future for all well into the future.

While we’re investing in digital capabilities to enhance education across the continent, we know that the future of Africa is still its people! And Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom has people at its core. We believe that in creating opportunities for people to share and connect using digital technologies, we can contribute to greater inclusivity and a more prosperous continent for all.

How You Can Participate

Work is already underway to establish Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom. We will be creating opportunities for our employees, customers, teachers, learners and many other stakeholders to add their voices to the design process. You can follow our progress and add your voice to the conversation on social media using #175Africa

We look forward to working with you to bring Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom online!

Content provided by Old Mutual

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Brand Voice

Focus on Mauritius: Promoting Sustainability Through Perseverance And Policy

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“Let us provide the business community with the necessary tools to carry out their operations in a predictable, transparent and fair manner and let the private sector walk alongside us by taking a measure of responsibility for growing a prosperous, empowered and equitable society. Let the public-private sector alliance be built on good governance, transparency and accountability.” H.E. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius

Download the report here.

Mauritius is a breathtakingly beautiful tropical island of 1.3 million inhabitants and an upper middle-income economy positioned in the Indian Ocean at a strategic converging point for Africa, Asia and Australia. “Mauritius is a gateway to Africa, and is one of the superior places in terms of establishing your services,” says Sanjiv Bhasin, Chief Executive Officer, AfrAsia. “The service industry can penetrate any economy from here.” The nation set out about reinventing itself after its independence in 1968, becoming not only one of the most stable democracies in Africa, but one whose prosperous diverse economy aims to achieve high-income status by 2025.

“Let us provide the business community with the necessary tools to carry out their operations in a predictable, transparent and fair manner and let the private sector walk alongside us by taking a measure of responsibility for growing a prosperous, empowered and equitable society. Let the public-private sector alliance be built on good governance, transparency and accountability.”

H.E. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius

With only half a century since its independence, Mauritius has come a long way due to the implementation of its diversification policies which have fortified its local economy. The accomplishment of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have played a key role. Using a social platform, the SDGs address youth unemployment, while implementing technology and innovation to push Mauritius to the next level, with a specific focus upon the protection of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems against climate change. Its aim is to be simultaneously a model of sustainability, a green destination and a fully fledged ocean economy. “With the help of the Mauritius Oceanographic Institute, we are currently working on wave energy,” states Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Public Utilities, Hon. Ivan Leslie Collendavelloo, GCSK, SC. “We have launched a prototype, which is an entirely Mauritian concept, developed by five scientists of the Mauritius Oceanographic Institute; the technology is there.”  In January 2020, Mauritius implemented a fisheries and acquaculture reform programme in order to empower SMEs  while promoting acquaculture through PPPs. “The island aims to be sustainable,” states Sanjiv Bhasin, CEO of Afrasia Bank. “We are concentrating on how we can adapt sustainable technologies and methods to doing business and conducting business in the corporate way and carry that forward.”

Mauritius has understood the importance of focusing upon fostering a conducive business environment in order to strengthen the island’s position as leading investment destination. Mark van Beuningen, Chief Executive Officer of CIM Finance, affirms: “If you look at Mauritius as a base for growing a business in Africa, it has a very stable climate. It is very easy to do business here, there are very strong financial services regulations and the legal framework is very strong as well.” Mauritius ranked 13 out of 190 countries according to the Ease of Doing Business Report in 2019, while coming in absolute first in Africa in the World Bank Doing Business report for 2020 and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. It is also amongst the top 30 countries in the world on a further eight indicators, as well as amongst the top 10 countries in terms of business facilitation for ‘Paying Taxes’ and ‘Dealing with construction permits.’ It appears clear that the rapid growth of its economy is no miracle but a result of perseverance and policy. “Mauritius is a country where investors over the years have seen that there is certainty and stability,” declares Ravin Dajee, Managing Director of Absa Mauritius. “Rule of law applies and we have educated and skilled talent, ready to add value.”

The government has set upon itself to take significant measures to support SMEs, including setting up a US$12 million SME fund, encouraging the ‘Made in Mauritius’ brand. Focusing upon the implementation of sustainable development programmes, Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) is an example of how the nation supports entrepreneurship and innovation in the country. “SMEs contribute about 40% of the country’s GDP, at MCB, we believe it can go up to 60%.,” declares Raoul Gufflet, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of MCB. “SMEs can be the framework of a parachute that can land Mauritius in this high-income country track. We are currently focusing upon manufacturing, biopharming, agriculture, waste management, recycling, and technology sectors.”

As a multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual nation, Mauritius is also the most liberalised country on the continent. In these uncertain times, it is also a robust model and example of the importance and strength of unity in diversity, never has its 50th anniversary slogan ‘Lame Dan Lame’ (meaning hand-in-hand) been so pertinent and crucial to its resilient development. Mohammed Shamshir Mukoon, General Manager of Central Electricity Board (CEB) agrees: “Our people are very versatile and we have structures available to satisfy all the different cultures we receive. We are very mixed ourselves, so, it’s easier for us to feel and welcome investors in the country and meet their expectations.” The key to Mauritius’ success appears to lie in its aptitude to inject innovation into its economic policies combined with a dose of pragmatism in its effective and efficient policies; an idyllic business landscape whereby global civilisations converge and prosper.

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