• Your Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me begin by thanking His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, for his patronage of this important conference, and for the invitation to join you today.

No country or continent has been spared the damaging effects of the Covid pandemic.

Africa is no exception.

As vaccine distribution improves globally, the pandemic is becoming more manageable.

Travel and commerce are beginning to recover.

However, we are not going back to the same economy that we knew in 2019.

Some of the changes will be profound and lasting.

The crisis in international shipping and transportation is already generating new thinking.

Manufacturing and supply chains will need to become more resilient, more local, and more technologically advanced.

Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations in artificial intelligence and 3D printing, for example, are making it possible to make products almost anywhere, at a competitive cost.

Similarly, life-saving vaccines and other pharmaceuticals will increasingly be produced in a decentralized fashion, including in Rwanda, thanks to advances in engineering, and good partnerships with companies like BioNTech and others.

These changes were already underway before the Covid pandemic, but are now likely to accelerate.

Africa met this crisis well-prepared in at least one important respect: The African Continental Free Trade Area, which was decades in the making, had just entered its operational phase in July 2019.

Africa is now the largest free trade area in the world, in terms of the number of countries, since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Last week, the 15th ratification of the African Medicines Agency treaty was deposited with the African Union, and the treaty will therefore come into force next month.

The establishment of this body will be a game-changer for Africa’s ability to produce high-quality vaccines and medicines for our continent.

However, the progress of African economic integration will mean more trade and investment between Africa and the rest of the world, not less.

The United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, have long played a key role in linking Africa to the wider global economy.

This inter-connectedness has been mutually beneficial, and we wish to continue to deepen those collaborations.

The Covid pandemic has been an extremely difficult period. Families and small businesses have experienced a great deal of loss.

And while the worst may be behind us, the road back to normal is still long.

That is why we have a responsibility, amidst all this disruption, to maximize the strengths and assets that Africa does have.

We must also strive to seize the new opportunities that have been generated to work with partners to build a more prosperous and cooperative future for all of us.

I thank you for your kind attention and wish you a very productive meeting.