“There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is a humanitarian crisis. But it could also be an opportunity for the African continent.” This is how Amujae Leader Malado Kaba, writing in NextBillion for their “Enterprise in the Time of Coronavirus” series, introduced her op-ed, titled “Leveraging the COVID-19 Crisis for Local Development: How the Pandemic Can Strengthen Public-Private Collaboration in Africa.”
Ms. Kaba, who was the first woman to serve as Economy and Finance Minister of the Republic of Guinea, expressed her confidence that, with the right actions in place, it will be possible to achieve positive outcomes from these challenging times.
“Throughout the pandemic, two of the biggest challenges we’ve faced—both in my country, Guinea, and across Africa—have been eased by collaborations between the private and public sectors getting food on people’s tables as international supply chains broke down, and slowing the spread of the virus by sharing information.”
Ms. Kaba went on to explain how, when the country’s borders were closed due to the pandemic, access to imported food became restricted in Guinea. As a result, the country started to rely on national producers to meet its population’s supply needs, which she saw as an opportunity:
“I used my network as former Finance Minister to initiate a campaign promoting the purchase of locally grown and processed food. This caused a boost in the production of locally grown rice—recognized as a superior, nutrient-rich rice—from 10 to 25 tons. Not only did this ensure that our citizens had access to food, we were able to support over 10,000 farmers—more than half of whom were from women’s farmers’ associations.”
Providing Guineans with accurate figures about the pandemic and useful information on how to prevent COVID-19 was another great challenge. However, for Ms. Kaba, this was yet another opportunity to use local resources to support her country’s providers in this field:
“I provided funding and networking connections for a group of young tech developers, to support their efforts to create the public-private partnerships they needed to get funding and hosting for an app offering improved contact tracing. By making regional connections, we were able to keep their local expertise local, rather than outsourcing the idea to international developers.”
Both examples show how, upon understanding the needs of the population in Guinea, it was possible to create context-appropriate solutions that not only catered to those needs, but that also helped boost the local economy during the COVID-19 crisis.
In conclusion, Ms. Kaba shared some key actions for governments and the private sector to take in order to collaboratively help Africa build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. She also highlighted how the Amujae Initiative has enabled her to connect with women across the continent, sharing ideas and solutions to help their countries through the crisis:
“As I’ve worked with private and public sector actors in Guinea to develop these solutions, I’ve been able to tap into a network of women from across the continent who are implementing other innovative approaches to tackling the pandemic in their countries. Through the Amujae Initiative, the flagship program of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, I’ve sourced inspiration, shared ideas and brainstormed solutions to seemingly intractable problems.”
You can read the full op-ed here.