With the industrialised world announcing plans to lift all the Covid-19 restrictions, President Buhari and his AU colleagues should insist the programme includes an African Marshall Plan.
Across Europe and North America, plans are in full swing to ease the Covid-19 restrictions this year. By my calculations, we will be back to normal by the summer.
In the UK in particular, it appears that the economy cannot sustain the lockdown for much longer anyway, so come what may, the restrictions will be lifted by May/June irrespective of the infection rate.
I have repeatedly drawn parallels between the coronavirus pandemic and World War Two as from an economic standpoint, their circumstances were similar. World War Two was the last time we had global commerce and industrial output affected to this extent. Back then, the difference was that production was directed towards armaments, whereas now, it just stalled.
Knowing mankind, within two years, industrial output will be back to pre-coronavirus levels and by 2024, it would have surpassed it significantly. It is just in the nature of humans to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix and turn adversity into opportunity.
What we are not debating now, however, is how the African continent uses this crisis to re-launch itself and become a global economic force. It is not sustainable for a continent to account for 18% of the world’s population and just 3% of global trade. We now have a chance in a lifetime to address this anomaly.
After World War Two, the US spent $12bn (equivalent to $130bn in 2019) on economic recovery programmes designed to enable Western European economies to recover after the conflict. Africa got nothing under that plan despite being a major source of materials for the war effort.
Even North Africa that was one of the biggest battlefields of World War Two did not see a penny of Marshall Plan funds. We should not allow the rest of the world shortchange us again this time.
In America for instance, President Joe Biden has announced a $1.9trn economic stimulus plan. That is fine for the domestic economy but I am yet to hear about his global economic resuscitation plans.
Can it be made crystal clear that nobody is asking for charity here but an investment?
According to recent figures just published by the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), last year, it enjoyed record-breaking returns on investment. In what was the highest in its nearly 30-year history, the USTDA generated an average of $112 in US exports for every dollar invested in infrastructural projects in emerging markets. From an economic standpoint, you cannot dispute the merits of an investment in Africa.
I do not think it is too much for Africa to request that the G-7 nations invest at least $500bn on their continent under a Covid-19 economic recovery development plan. For Africa as a continent, the impact of this pandemic has been economic rather than clinical. It was the rest of the world that brought this virus to Africa, so I believe we are well within our rights to demand restitution.
I want to see a robust shopping list requesting an initial foreign direct investment (FDI) sum of $500bn and then minimal annual investments of $100bn. If the rest of the world refuses to play ball, we should just refuse to be vaccinated. We will not get this opportunity again in our lifetime!