Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament, Uganda
Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga is a Ugandan lawyer and politician who has been Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda since 19 May 2011. She is the first woman to be elected Speaker. She is also the current Member of Parliament (MP) for the Kamuli District Women's Constituency, Busoga sub-region, a position she has held since 1989. From 1996 to 1998, Rebecca Kadaga was the Ugandan Minister of State for Regional Cooperation. She then served as Minister of State for Communication and Aviation from 1998 to 1999 and as Minister for Parliamentary Affairs from 1999 to 2000.
I convey my greetings and warm wishes to all participants and the organizers of this conference.
Today’s topic offers an opportunity to reflect on Africa as a continent of the future, in light of the global crisis.
As many of you know, Africa has not had a huge scale of Covid-19 infections and deaths as experienced elsewhere in the world.
Scientists have noted the presence of antibodies and high immunity in many Africans. Research is ongoing and will provide information on strategies for the continent and hopefully other parts of the world.
It has been a learning curve for us; in the beginning, there was a fear that Africa would be worst hit by the global pandemic.
Some economies and individuals have paid a high price for the measures of lockdown. But our resilience and willingness to adapt keep us afloat.
In order to cope, many Africans have looked at home-bred solutions at optimum cost, including indigenous knowledge.
Our local manufacturers made hand sanitizers and tailor-made cloth masks, in line with World Health Organization standards.
At the personal level, people are maintaining immunity using organic foods and remedies in their backyards. Anything to avoid dying of Covid-19! This is adaptation and resilience at work.
But if there is anything we should not forget, it should be the duty to build resilient public health and social systems, so that we are better prepared in case of another crisis.
As parliaments, our responsibility to the people becomes even more urgent during a crisis and we must lead by example.
In Uganda we adapted to Covid-19 by reducing the number of MPs and staff working around the parliament.
We had plenary sessions in a marquee, where we could observe social distancing.
We also had a health committee task force monitoring the situation in the most affected parts of the country.
Parliaments support their governments in terms of budgeting and enacting the laws/policies for emergency response and research.
Through the role of oversight, we have the opportunity to keep the implementers in check, but we must also focus on the most vulnerable and help them recover from economic effects of the crisis.
This helps eliminate inequality in society and promotes peace and harmony.
We recall that in March 2020, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called for a global ceasefire in the face of the pandemic; a number of warring parties supported the call.
However, tracking shows that some conflicts continued, even where ceasefires were announced.
Humanity must unite to fight pandemics, which are a bigger threat than any conflict over resources, race, religion or opinion.
We have had to stop, listen, learn and practice behavioral change in order to overcome Covid-19, and war can be overcome in similar ways.
Parliamentarians can help foster peace through mediating with state and non-state actors both during a crisis and under normal circumstances.
During parliamentary appropriation, financing should not be skewed towards warfare at the expense of social welfare.
Finally, let me mention one opportunity that came to us amidst this crisis, and that is the burst of innovation.
People have learnt new skills for income generation and self-improvement.
As physical interactions reduced, many leapfrogged into the digital economy, using mobile phones and the internet for commerce, school and work.
These are prospects that would have taken a long time for many Africans to embrace under normal circumstances.
We, therefore, must not lose the momentum to build on that.
Above all, we keep hope alive. We shall keep learning and growing as we capitalize on our strengths and partnerships across the globe.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.