• Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala ex-finance minister of Nigeria, ex-managing director of World Bank, current Chair of the Board of the Gavi alliance for vaccines.
  • Warns of complacency at relatively small number of COVID cases in Africa.
  • Fear economic impact on pandemic could wipe out years of development.
  • Michelle Bachelet, UN human rights chief, says COVID has helped exposed inequalities; calls for end to police brutality.
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"We should not be complacent about where Africa is at the moment," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala tells this week's World Vs Virus podcast.

"I know many people are seeing that the number of deaths on the continent is quite low, but the trajectory of the disease is still up. We do not see flattening of curves because the number of cases is still doubling every two weeks and that is with very minimal testing."

Okonjo-Iweala served as finance minister under two Nigerian presidents, rose through the ranks of the World Bank to become a managing director, and now chairs the board of GAVI, the global alliance for vaccines.

On the economic impact, Okonjo-Iweala says a forecast drop in output across continent could be disastrous.

"Right now the prediction is for contraction on the continent of about 2%. This has not happened for the past 25 years. So I have this fear that the two or three decades of growth that we've had and our development may be lost, we may be set back unless we act massively to reverse this and make sure it doesn't happen, during the recovery period."

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, USA speaking in the Gavi at 20: Lessons Learned from the World's Leading Vaccine Alliance  session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 22 January. Congress Centre - Congress Hall. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Valeriano Di Domenico
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Davos in January
Image: World Economic Forum / Valeriano Di Domenico

Also in this episode, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet talks about the links between COVID-19 and race and inequality - and also on how police and governments must deploy an intelligent, sensitive response to unrest.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva capture during the Session
Michelle Bachelet in Davos in 2019
Image: World Economic Forum / Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary

"Leaders need to listen to what's going on, need to tackle the root causes," she says of anti-racist and other protests that are often met by police brutality.

"The freedom of assembly and the freedom of protest, if it's peaceful, it has to be respected, it has to be heard."

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Find all previous episodes of World Vs Virus here.

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