Amujae Leader Malado Kaba was the first woman to serve as Economy and Finance Minister for the Republic of Guinea, holding the role from 2016 to 2018. With this background and experience, her immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis in Guinea has been to get a better understanding of its economic impact in order to help inform effective mitigation strategies.
Over a period of three weeks, Malado conducted a survey of 100 companies—both SMEs and larger enterprises—and subsequently published her findings, driving interest from the media and gaining traction in both the public and private sectors.
Malado’s work identified that the effects extended well beyond the hospitality sector, which was an initial focus for the response efforts, and that there was a need to consider individual sectors’ contributions to national wealth. With many respondents cash-strapped and facing difficult choices about making employees redundant, the need for urgent and decisive action was clear. Existing instability is compounding the effects of the crisis in Guinea, with the country already suffering from economic turbulence.
In addition to advocating for action through social media and the press, Malado is leveraging her membership of a private sector platform to bring nuance to the government’s economic recovery plan. She has used the survey results as the basis for suggestions and proposed actions for the government: “We’re sharing our work with development partners and also advocating with the government to implement their economic plan; I believe it’s important to draw on the resources of the private sector—they can be particularly powerful in troubled times.”
Beyond this work, Malado has been involved in supporting technology-led initiatives focused on contact tracing, including a project developing a community app to bring better coordination to firms and individuals. She has already funded a year’s hosting for the platform and has led a social media campaign to build more support. Additionally, she hopes that her support will secure free access to SMS alert messaging for another group of developers, who are working to improve contact tracing as part of relief initiatives.
Much like the Ebola outbreak that affected so much of West Africa in recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic could result in opportunities to drive decision-making and policy change for the people of Guinea. Like in many countries, closed borders and trading restrictions are a compelling call to boost the local content policy agenda. Malado hopes to seize the opportunity of food donations to secure income for local farmers as part of her support for young people in agriculture, many of whom are women: “By encouraging people to buy locally sourced goods at this time, we’re helping women’s economic empowerment—seven tons of rice have already been produced and sold by women’s farmers associations.”
Following the inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum in early March, Malado is using the experience to help her understand how to navigate the current crisis: “It’s a balance between using my profile and expertise to help people, but also making sure that I’m respectful of people during these troubled times.”
Read more about Malado’s experience here.
The Amujae Initiative is a program of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. Learn more about the Center here.