Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf makes impassioned speech at Hogan Lovells seventh Africa Forum

London, 21 July 2020 – International law firm Hogan Lovells hosted its seventh annual Africa Forum this month, with Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, First Female President of Liberia & Nobel Peace Laureate, featuring as a keynote speaker to an online audience of business leaders.

Themed Growth & Sustainability, this year’s Forum assembled panellists to discuss Africa’s business critical challenges emerging from the global pandemic of COVID-19, as well as the effects of climate change, and importance of leaders who are championing the continent towards sustainable future growth.

Alongside an impassioned speech by Her Excellency, featured speakers included the firm’s new Chief Executive Officer Miguel Zaldivar, Head of our Africa Practice Andrew Skipper, Global Managing Partner for Diversity & Inclusion, and Responsible Business Susan Bright, partners Arun Velusami and Nathan Searle, senior counsel Andrew Carey, senior scientist Marion Palmer, senior marketing and business development manager for Africa Abena Poku, and a host of senior business leaders.

With 400 online attendees, sessions covered impact financing, risk management, scientific practice post-COVID-19, the role of government and public sector in delivering a positive and sustainable narrative for Africa, thought leaders perspectives on the impact of art and culture, Africa's energy landscape, and Africa's leading women on how to become a trailblazer.

Addressing the global pandemic, Her Excellency commented: "The prevailing wisdom in our continent will survive this pandemic but the effects it will leave are enormous. For Africa… mitigating interventions include increasing resources from multilateral lending agencies, direct support to keep households afloat and businesses solvent, and scaling up support to the informal sector, which predominantly employs women."

"The truth is that unless we address the issues of the pandemic and its presenting challenges… not only are we all ultimately susceptible to poor health but also we risk all other aspects of our collective existence and enduring partnerships."

On climate change, Her Excellency added: "It has been said climate change poses a relationship between energy and development. It has redefined the relationships and expectations between business, governments and people. It is a fact that Africa, unlike other regions of the world, has contributed less to the climate crisis we now face. However, such is the interconnectedness of our world that despite this and the fact that many on the continent are without electricity, Africa faces a higher burden than most on changes for climate. Is Africa ready for sustainable values? Is Africa ready to resume full responsibility for its development? Yes. Africa is ready."

Head of our Africa Practice, Andrew Skipper, said: "I was delighted to host our 7th Africa Forum virtually and with such an exceptional array of speakers. We were determined to remain present in Africa despite being in the midst of the global pandemic, COVID-19, and we did so. To say Covid-19 has changed the world is an understatement and featured as a backdrop to our discussions. The immediate and lasting effect of the virus is still reverberating, and whilst it will undoubtedly have a fundamental impact on the way we do business in Africa, from Africa and across Africa, the positive and robust discussions showed a way forward brimming with hope."

"Looking back to 2019, the adverse impact of climate change around the world had even the most hardened sceptics paying attention. The continent of Africa is one of the most vulnerable to the forces of climate change, although it contributes the least to global warming. Nevertheless, the Forum showed there is much optimism for championing Africa as a leader in sustainable future growth and hope for future generations."

For more information on the 2020 Africa Forum, see the full agenda here.

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