Call for stronger African collaboration
Bulawayo, April 28, 2022 (New Ziana) – CHALLENGES experienced by African countries in securing Covid-19 vaccines and other pandemic-related materials should be a wake-up call for the continent and heighten need to develop its own production capacities, Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga (Rtd) said on Thursday.
African countries experienced challenges in procuring Covid-19 vaccines, and sundries, which were in short supply due to hoarding by wealthier nations, and high demand.
The hoarding of vaccines by the wealthier nations has been castigated and described as “vaccine apartheid”.
VP Chiwenga said the current Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the need for greater collaboration on the continent.
“The first key lesson from the Covid-19 experience for Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa is that firstly, not much can be achieved in isolation. Other countries prioritised the safety and welfare of their people first and we were left to realise as Africans that we are on our own,” he said while officially opening the inaugural Connect Africa symposium held on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which entered its third day here.
“There is therefore an inherent need for us as Africans to work hard towards common goals.”
Collaboration among African countries should be based on Ubuntu and innovation in areas including health, agriculture, mining and infrastructure.
“You may recall that Covid-19 disrupted industry, business and the overall trajectory of our economic growth. However, through collective efforts and hard work we have managed to rise above the disruption and continue to forge the way forward, inspired by a determination to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for our continent. Secondly, innovation is the key to accelerating development. This pertains to different facets of our lives such as policy making, agriculture, mining, tourism, education, health, infrastructure development and other economic sectors,” he said.
There is also need for strong collaboration among African countries on the political and economic front for the continent to attain its development aspirations.
Africa was already blessed with abundant mineral resources and a young and educated population, and as such, boundless opportunities for growth and development existed.
For example, he said, trade could be enhanced rapidly through the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
“None of this can be achieved without solidarity. As Africans, we need to have a united economic front and speak with one political voice,” he said.
“We need to re-imagine, re-think, and refocus Africa’s future through economic development grounded on oneness and solidarity.
“The African economy, if managed well would sustain itself for the benefit of its present and future generations there are numerous opportunities for continental development, the most recent one is the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The context of the legacy we wish to build for Africa, development and solidarity are requisite interlinked steps for our sisterly countries to reposition the continent to a position of competitiveness and excellence. This can be achieved through firstly adopting and implementing the AfCFTA and secondly by maintaining and creating fruitful and sustainable trade relationships regionally, across the continent and the entire world.
“We should also maximise the gains of the new normal in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, leveraging on the high educational standards synonymous with our people.”
Speaking at the same event, African Development Bank country manager for Zimbabwe, Moono Mupotola, said African governments should also collaborate on improving the swift movement of goods and services across borders.
She said while physical infrastructure was being improved to facilitate trade, “soft” infrastructure was proving an even bigger hinderance to trade.
“For those of you who came from Harare to Bulawayo by road, I was speaking to my colleagues to say how many roadblocks have we gone through just to reach a distance of less than 400km. I counted it was about four then there is Zinara, which is great to collect tolls, but it takes a lot of time at tollgates.
“What I have just described is Harare to Bulawayo, but if I am coming from Durban trying to get to the DRC, how many roadblocks do I have to go through, how many tollgates and then in addition when you get to the border there are things that also happen there.
“If we are going to reinvent, rethink, how do we make it easier for people and goods to come through? The average price for any container that spends time at a border for one day is between USD 300-500 per day, those costs that add up are transferred to the consumer so the prosperity that we want to see our people benefit will not be there,” she said.