Adesina, Machel, N’Dour Engage CSOs to Address COVID-19 Impact on Vulnerable Africans

File photo: A health worker takes a swab from a woman during a community COVID-19 coronavirus testing campaign in Abuja on April 15, 2020. Kola Sulaimon / AFP

President of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina; Chair of the Graça Machel Trust, Graça Machel; and a musician, businessman and former Culture and Tourism Minister of Senegal, Youssou N’Dour, have reaffirmed the need to engage the civil society organisations (CSOs) towards building back Africa following the devastating effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the continent’s socio-economic life.

Speaking at the opening of the 2020 African Development Bank Civil Society Forum on Thursday in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, Adesina said: “The role of civil society in monitoring interventions is crucial and important to ensure they are effectively deployed to reach the poor and vulnerable, who are most affected.”

Adesina, who stated this while engaging in a conversation with Machel and N’Dour, assured that the African Development Bank would step up its efforts in reaching out to the vulnerable.

He said the critical issue was not the amount of funds that are provided by the bank and others, but who they reach, noting that transparency and accountability are also critical.

Thus, Adesina said: “We will work much harder, collectively and in unison, to accelerate the impact of our work.”

Also speaking at the event, Machel commended the African Development Bank’s strong track record of working with governments and the private sector.

She, however, appealed for an increase in the bank’s funding to directly support civil society efforts to address the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach families in Africa’s societies.

Machel charged African leaders to harness civil society’s “incredible potential to accelerate social change at a larger scale” in the continent.

According to him, “These organisations stepped up, often with limited resources and in very dangerous conditions, to save lives and restore dignity to communities in the midst of this pandemic.

“Resources for organisations working with women, children and those living with disabilities and in the rural areas are desperately needed.”

To N’Dour, artists should be on the frontline of Africa’s development, given their pivotal role as communicators.

“Even in a place where there is oil, if there is no culture to explain this to the people, there is war…

“We should be able to say after (President Adesina’s) term that culture has been involved in the development of Africa.

“Culture is profitable and I’m available to provide my assistance, to work with my staff to create other champions in Africa, to take the African Development Bank’s work to another level.

“Africa’s time is now. This should not only be words or prayers. It is within reach. I’m sure (the African Development Bank will be able to meet this challenge,” he said, while speaking in French via an interpreter.

The two-day virtual Civil Society Forum, which kicked off on Thursday with the theme: “Engaging Civil Society in Building Back Better after COVID-19,” would explore cost-effective strategies and reflect on best practices to enhance collaboration between the bank and civil society in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual event was declared opened with remarks from senior officials of the bank: Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Wambui Gichuri; and Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, Vanessa Moungar.

The second day of the forum would provide an opportunity for the civil society organisations to develop innovative grassroots ideas.

Idowu Sowunmi