African Union appoints special envoys to garner international support to fight Covid-19

African Union chair and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa,has appointed former Credit Suisse boss Tidjane Thiam and several other dignitaries as special envoys to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus. The envoy team also includes former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and Donald Kaberuka, former president and chairman of the African Development Bank. A statement by the African Union said that the envoys will be tasked with lobbying support pledged by the G20, the EU and other financial institutions. Ramaphosa said: ““In the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments. He added: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.” Ivory Coast-born banker Thiam left Credit Suisse in February this year after a scandal over the surveillance of another executive. Thiam, who was hired by Rohner in 2015, had won the shareholders support for stabilising the bank by pivoting away from fraught trading operations to its wealth management arm. Manuel, who is now chairman of insurer Old Mutual,was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an Investment envoy by Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive. Dr Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has also served as Managing Director of the World Ban Thiam is one of several prominent Africans who has called for a standstill on debt to private creditors amid the outbreak of coronavirus, which threatens many African economies already facing headwinds from factors such as plummeting oil prices. Private creditors include Thiam’s former employer Credit Suisse, which is currently fighting Mozambique in court over a $622 million loan. In just two years from 2015 to 2017, African external debt payments doubled from an average of 5.9 percent of government revenue to 11.8 percent. At 32 percent, the proportion of debt owed to private lenders is almost equal to the 35 percent owed to multilateral institutions.

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