OPINION: World experts gather for African ‘fireside chats’ to tackle humanity’s challenges

PUBLISHED: Thu, 30 Jul 2020 13:58:10 GMT

COVID-19 will come and go, yet other global problems, such as climate change and extreme poverty, will persist in its wake.

The African Development Institute (ADI), was founded by the African Development Bank to be a focal point for capacity building in order to tackle such challenges. Prof. Kevin Chika Urama is its senior director.

Under the auspices of its Global Community of Practice (G-CoP) platform, the ADI brings together global experts to develop evidence that can inform policy, strategies and technical assistance for African countries to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic and cushion their economies against its impacts.

In this interview, Urama explains why G-CoP matters.

Can you give us a brief overview of the Global Community of Practice (G-CoP) initiative and main objectives?

The G-CoP was established to inform short, medium and long-term policy responses to global policy challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

This platform is a partnership between member institutions and government agencies that participate in and host webinars, and policy dialogues on subjects that are of interest to the Bank’s regional member countries.

All webinars are moderated in consultation with dedicated ADI staff members who manage the G-CoP platform and help to produce relevant knowledge products that respond to the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on global, regional and national health systems and economies. Our objective is to build more resilient African economies in the post COVID-19 world.

To date, the ADI has hosted three G-CoP policy webinars. The first focused on macro-economic policies; the second on food systems and agricultural value chains; and the third on inclusive health systems. In total, the webinars brought together more than 1,500 global experts, including current and former policy practitioners, academics, private sector leaders and civil society, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Economic Research Consortium, Murdoch University in Western Australia, the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Harvard University in the United States, and many African universities and think tanks.

One of the platform’s most innovative features is an interactive virtual marketplace that enables policymakers to access technical advisory services in real time.

What are some of the key takeaways from your recently concluded G-CoP seminars?

Some key policy options and recommendations include:

· Implement social distancing and personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing and wearing face masks,

· Engage with local experts to garner context-relevant social protection policies and strategies to protect vulnerable households and small businesses from collapse.

· Scale up the capacity for community testing, contact tracing and isolation of COVID-patients to prevent community spread of the virus.

· Invest in inclusive health and food systems, water and sanitation facilities, especially for vulnerable households where lockdown policies are needed.

· Public and private debt restructuring, structured debt relief and targeted debt forgiveness. Short-term debt moratoriums are helpful. However, considering the pandemic’s massive impact on countries’ already constrained fiscal balances, debt forgiveness would be ideal.

· Scaling up investments in centres for disease control to strengthen their capacity for early warning systems and pandemic risk mitigation.

How different are the G-CoP’s deliberations from those of other forums?

Our deliberations take the form of African fireside discussions that cover matters of grave importance; key implementable decisions are collectively owned by the elders.

By bringing together global experts from around the world on the same platform, the G-CoP offers reality checks for each policy option proffered. Many of the policy questions that face humanity today, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty alleviation, climate change, terrorism and global insecurity, are trans-disciplinary, trans-sectoral and transnational.

Most of these policy questions touch on problems around the so-called global commons. Policy options conceived by a single sector, discipline or even nation are often suboptimal and may lead to more systemic challenges. Global collaborative platforms, such as the ADI G-CoP, are required to address these challenges holistically.

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