While the world is making every effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19, it is waging a parallel battle: preventing economies from collapsing. At the end of March, the African Union launched a Special Fund with a starting bet of $ 17 million. But the Pan-African organization hopes to raise $ 400 million.
The AU is, therefore, counting on the contribution of member states, the rest of the international community and the great fortunes of the continent. But since the beginning of the health crisis and faced with the economic consequences it provokes, the richest families and African personalities concentrate philanthropic actions in their country of origin.
► Questions to Alexander Trotter, one of the administrators of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and member of the board of directors of UBA (United Bank of Africa).
RFI: What are the UBA bank and the Tony Elumelu Foundation doing in the face of the current health crisis?
Alexander Trotter: UBA and the Tony Elumelu Foundation acted very quickly, in a very open and pan-African way. The health crisis has led to the closing of the borders of many countries, but the borders are not closed to ideas and assistance. The UBA Foundation donated directly donated $ 14 million to all 20 African countries where the bank operates. This money was given to the respective governments. Tony Elumelu (the boss of the bank) supports the idea of finding a pan-African solution, and for all 54 countries of the African continent, the Foundation has set up an online program to continue training young entrepreneurs. This training is very important. UBA and the Tony Elumelu Foundation donated money, but they also donate ideas and supports.
Among these ideas, do you also count Tony Elumelu’s call for a Marshall Plan for Africa?
Absolutely. The rest of the world must act clearly for Africa. African states are less equipped than, for example, Germany or the United States, to be able to help each other economically in this situation. Tony Elumelu, therefore, tries to alert politicians and business leaders for strategic assistance. But we must also help young entrepreneurs. And during this period (COVID-19 Pandemic), we are really oriented towards finding virtual ways to help people. With the TEFConnect portal, which currently has a million users, we provide health information, but we also train people in business management during this period.
Is the idea to help the owners of SMEs to avoid bankruptcy during this health and economic crisis?
We are indeed looking for immediate solutions to preserve health, but we are also looking for solutions for the economy, now and after the health crisis. Regarding health solutions, there are Africans sharp in technological innovations, why not see what they can offer, for example in the research of vaccines. And economically, companies must be able to survive this crisis.
The African Union considers that the great fortunes of the continent are less quick to finance the special fund created to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to repair the economic damage caused by the health crisis?
In Europe, the United States and Asia, governments have launched programs to help businesses. Subsidy programs for employees. It is the same in Africa, but the problem is that on this continent, the States have less room for manoeuvre. Second, the economy remains even less formalized. This is why the economic crisis is likely to be deep in Africa. The world must understand it. Sure, big business has helped and Africans have to play the leading role, but they need support from around the world.
Originally Published in rfi