Governments and private sector can recover economy after COVID-19 – Vodafone CEO


Ms Patricia Obo-Nai, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vodafone Ghana, has called for cooperation between the government and the private sector to recover the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This could be achieved by strengthening social resilience, she said. She made the call when she joined a host of African Leaders and the International Community to share her thoughts on “Africa’s Economic Recovery after COVID-19” at this year’s Bruegel Annual Meeting.

“The pandemic has impacted livelihoods, trade and economic growth. Twenty-five million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are being pushed into poverty so there’s the need for a deliberate effort by the private sector and government to rescue such people,” she added.
This was contained in a statement from Vodafone Ghana and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.

Madam Obo-Nai said the crisis was leading to rising unemployment and widening of the gap between the rich and poor as well as young and old.

“For Africa, we have done the basics on mobile money usage but more work is being done for more people to venture into a digital wallet, merchant payment and many more. A billion dollars is spent yearly by Vodafone on network upgrades but infrastructure gaps with broadband require $80 to 100 billion, which governments must do more to assist with,” she said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, governments were tightening their budgets and restructuring sectors to receive a governmental stimulus, however, it was necessary that governments worked with the private sector to better manage the health crisis, contain the socio-political impact and aid economic recovery.

Vodafone Ghana as a private sector had put a number of measures in place such as developing a six-point plan including increasing network capacity by 60 per cent to ensure people stayed connected as more folks worked from home, Madam Obo-Nai said.

She said the network saw a 50 per cent increase in data traffic and aside putting devices in hands of health workers, Vodafone Ghana also set up a tele-centre, which had 15 multilingual doctors helping citizens.

With many Ghanaian students based at home since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CEO said Vodafone Ghana was already operating online educational support for students, scaled up the programme offering both global and local content to enable more students to access the Instant Schools platform at no data charge.

“Aggregated anonymized data, mobility insights, and contact tracing apps were deployed in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, the collaboration with the Ghana Statistical Services gave insights of population challenges and dynamics.

“We worked with the Central Banks to enhance financial inclusion. In many markets, we took the fees off when funds were transferred,” Madam Obo-Nai said.

Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian President, according to the statement, said at the beginning of 2019, Africa was hailed as a rising continent and despite the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as well as acts of terrorism in the Sahel, the continent recorded growth.

“Decades of economic and political transformations earned the continent its credentials of a participant democracy,” she added.
The UN World Economic Situational Prospect for 2019 put the GDP rising from 3.2 in 2018 to 3.4 in 2019 to 3.7 in 2020 with four of the largest growth countries being African.

Nonetheless, Ms Sirleaf said 75 per cent of 1.3 billion Africans faced a bleak future because of the rising population and limited resources which put great risk on the sociopolitical stability of the states.

It was in the face of these threats that Ms Sirleaf welcomed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which sought to accelerate intra-African trade while boosting Africa’s trading activities.

Mr Hafez Ghanem Earlier, the Vice President, Eastern & Southern Africa, World Bank Group, gave a caution on the decline regarding the GDP of most African states that about 12.5 people of Africa fall in the poverty bracket where they faced acute hunger.

He said since COVID-19 hit, many African states were losing huge revenue on commodity export with “Nigeria’s revenue falling by 70 per cent because of a fall in oil prices.”

Island economies, Mr Ghanem said had taken a hit such as Mauritius whose tourism sector had been greatly impacted by the pandemic.
“In large economies like South Africa, the industry has lost about 400,000 jobs,” he noted.

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