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The African Union (AU) has raised US$25 million for the COVID-19 Response Fund and an additional US$36.5 million for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.                    

AU Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, made the announcement during a virtual meeting with chairpersons of the AU Regional Economic Communities on Wednesday, 29 April 2020.

Earlier in April, the regional body established the AU COVID-19 Response Fund in a drive to raise additional funds for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The continental body also set out an intensive lobbying of the international community, including the international financial institutions, for a comprehensive, robust economic stimulus package for Africa.

To spearhead the continent’s economic response to the pandemic, five AU special envoys were appointed to follow up on pledges, mobilise further international support and campaign for international participation in the AU’s COVID-19 economic intervention.

The five envoys are Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Dr Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, Mr Tidjane Thiam of Côte d'Ivoire, Mr Trevor Manuel of South Africa and Mr Benkhalfa Abderrahmane of Algeria.

President Ramaphosa said the appointment of a special envoy from the Central African region was also on the cards.

The AU has addressed the virtual summit of the G20 and a virtual joint meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, underscoring the need for a comprehensive, robust economic stimulus package for Africa.

In these engagements, the AU called for, among other measures, the allocation of more Special Drawing Rights Allocations to Africa to provide much-needed liquidity to central banks, the corporate sector and SMEs.

“We also argued for a waiver of all interest payments on multilateral and bilateral debt. This would provide the necessary fiscal space for African governments to devote all available resources to response and recovery.

“This economic injection should support both the continent’s immediate humanitarian needs and place the continent on a path towards economic recovery,” said President Ramaphosa.

The need to ensure trade and investment flows are not further disrupted by measures inconsistent with World Trade Organisation rules was also emphasised.

African business leaders propose debt standstill

Earlier, President Ramaphosa chaired a video conference meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly with 21 African business leaders to obtain their support for the AU COVID-19 Strategy.

The meeting expressed its full support for a two-year debt standstill and a proposal to develop a plan for the restructuring of both private and bilateral debt. It was further stressed that grants from the World Bank to the poorest countries must be additional to what had already been planned.

Support the WHO

Updating the meeting on the response from the international community, President Ramaphosa said the response had been positive with various partners making pledges, offering debt-relief measures and providing concrete support in the form of medical supplies.

He called on African countries to unequivocally support the World Health Organisation and its Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A further call was made on all African countries to support the pledging initiative, which started on 4 May and which is spearheaded by the European Union to mobilise significant resources towards finding a vaccine.

Lift economic sanction on Sudan and Zimbabwe

The President also expressed the urgent need for economic sanctions against Sudan and Zimbabwe to be lifted, in order to provide the necessary space for these countries to devote their resources to the fight against COVID-19.

“It is clear that this virus knows no borders or nationality. In our response, it is therefore essential that we remain guided by the principles of unity, solidarity, collaboration and cooperation among African countries,” said the President.