Kevin Urama

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

To date, the ADI has hosted three G-CoP policy webinars. The first focused on macroeconomic 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 COVIDpatients 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.