Stakeholders shower encomium on ECA outgoing executive secretary

Outgoing ECA Executive Secretary and UN Under-Secretary-General, Vera Songwe

HIGH-level officials in the United Nations system in Ethiopia on Friday celebrated the “trailblazing leadership’’ of outgoing ECA Executive Secretary and UN Under-Secretary-General, Ms Vera Songwe.

The high level officials comprised representatives of African governments, the African Union, UN agencies, and the diplomatic corps.

This is contained in a statement issued by the Communications Section of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The members of staff of ECA were also included in a farewell event organised at the organisation’s compound in Addis Ababa on Sept. 14.

The statement also quoted the acting Executive Secretary, Antonio Pedro, as highlighting Songwe’s historical role as the first, and only woman to have led the ECA.

According to Pedro, the outgoing executive secretary’s transformative work at the organization cannot go unrecognised.

“In the five years of Dr Songwe’s tenure, the ECA has strengthened its position as Africa’s voice on the global landscape.”

Reflecting on her time at the ECA, Songwe underscored the collaborative nature of her work at the organisation.

“It has been an incredible opportunity and learning experience to work with each one of the staff and each one of the partners to tackle challenges that sometimes seemed incredibly insurmountable.”

She also spoke of the joy of being a part of an institution that provides “tangible and measurable support” to African member states.

Ethiopian State Minister for Political and Economic Diplomacy, Tesfaye Yilma attested to the former executive secretary’s reliable and supportive leadership skills.

“She has exceptionally steered the work of the ECA in the face of economic and health crises brought on by COVID-19 and other global challenges and suggested a way out.”

Yilma also highlighted the crucial support Songwe and the ECA provided to Ethiopia’s ongoing economic and tax reform, as well as green legacy.

The farewell celebrations included video statements from leadership voices across the continent and friends of the ECA.

This included UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-lweala, International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy, Dr John Nkemgasong, among others.

They all lauded Songwe’s leadership and expressed the hope that she would continue playing an active role in helping Africa achieve its growth agenda.

The former UN Under-Secretary-General was also praised by the dean of the diplomatic corps in Ethiopia, and the Bureau of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, among others.

ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist, Hanan Morsy, thanked attendees for being present to celebrate a unique African leader and champion.

Morsy underscored Sogwe’s trailblazing leadership to the ECA and continent, saying “you are a purpose-focused leader capable of choosing your own path and knowing how to strategically move from vision to execution.”

Under her leadership, ECA played a key role in promoting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at national, sub regional and continental levels.

The commission also advocated adequate resources to finance Africa’s COVID-19 recovery initiatives, fostered Public-Private Partnerships, and promoted local manufacturing to ensure sustainable economic growth and reduce growth volatility in Africa.

Songwe also played a role in negotiating the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal to reintegrate Ukrainian grain, other foodstuffs and fertiliser back into the global markets.

Songwe stepped down on Sept. 1 after five years of dedicated service to the ECA and Africa. (NAN)