African Union appoints ex-Credit Suisse boss as Special envoy for COVID Relief Fund

African Union appoints ex-Credit Suisse boss as Special envoy for COVID Relief Fund

The African Union (AU) has appointed former Credit Suisse boss Tidjane Thiam and several other dignitaries as a special envoys to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The envoy team, which was named by the AU chairman, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, also includes former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and Donald Kaberuka, former president and chairman of the African Development Bank.

Ivory Coast-born banker Thiam left Credit Suisse in February this year after a scandal over the surveillance of another executive.

The envoys will be tasked with "soliciting rapid and concrete support" pledged by the G20, the European Union and other financial institutions, the AU said in a statement.

"These institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments," Ramaphosa was quoted as saying.

Thiam is one of several prominent Africans who has called for a standstill on debt to private creditors amid the outbreak of coronavirus, which threatens many African economies already facing headwinds from factors such as plummeting oil prices.

How bad is the Economy in the face of a Pandemic ?

With around 12,500 COVID-19 cases to date, Africa accounts for a small fraction of the more than 1.7 million infections globally.

Nonetheless African countries have taken a disproportionate hit due to plummeting oil and commodity prices and weaker currencies, which ramp up external debt servicing costs.

African economies are expected to contract sharply this year and could lose 20 million jobs.

The AU Special Envoy has a good track record

Tidjane Thiam is the scion of an influential family whose political connections and history spread across two West African countries: Ivory Coast and Senegal.

The 57-year-old came to prominence in the UK when he was named as the head of Prudential in 2009, making him the first black chief executive of a major British company.

In an almost six-year stint he more than doubled Prudential’s profits and tripled its share price, cementing his place as one of the top bosses in the FTSE 100. The success of the company allowed him to weather the fallout of an ambitious but botched attempt at a $36bn (£24bn) takeover of AIA, the Asian arm of the US insurer AIG, only a few months into his tenure.