12 April 2020
Chairperson of the African Union (AU), President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Donald Kaberuka, Mr Tidjane Thiam and Mr Trevor Manuel as Special Envoys of the AU to mobilise international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Special Envoys will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions.
President Ramaphosa says: “In the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries 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.
“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa added: “The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has also served as Managing Director of the World Bank.
Dr Kaberuka is an economist and former President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former Finance Minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a Special Envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
Mr Manuel was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in the Republic of South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an Investment Envoy by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
Mr Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse and also served as Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.
The AU Chair said the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to this grave public health emergency. President Ramaphosa said the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.
“The African Union is immensely encouraged by the support that has been extended by the international community thus far. It is an affirmation that as nations of the world, we are all in this together. We must now focus on efforts to marshal every resource at our disposal to ensure that this pandemic is contained, and does not result in the collapse of already ailing economies and financial systems on the continent,” President Ramaphosa said.
Issued by: The Presidency and Chairperson of the AU
Dear Fellow South African,
Since we declared the nation-wide lockdown, we have found that the majority of South Africans have responded with patience and understanding despite the considerable hardship.
There is a common appreciation that the measures that have been enforced since Friday 27 March are in the best interests of all.
While the majority of South Africans continue to respect the rules of the lockdown and the rights of others, there are some among us seeking to exploit this crisis for their own sinister ends.
It is a great indictment of our society that dozens of schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground. When the lockdown is lifted and learning resumes, thousands of our children will have no school to return to, depriving them of the right to education. Eskom has also reported an increase in cable theft and vandalism of its infrastructure since the lockdown began, resulting in power supply interruptions and damage that will cost a considerable amount to repair.
That public property is being vandalised while the entire country is experiencing hardship because of the lockdown, is a demonstration of utter disrespect and disregard for the majority of South Africans who are law-abiding.
It is despicable that criminals are using this period of the lockdown as a cover to break the law at a time when our law-enforcement authorities are occupied with supporting the national effort to contain the pandemic.
Unfortunately, criminals are also preying on the weak and vulnerable.
Our hearts go out to the family of Mama Ngenzeni Zuma who was raped and killed in KwaZulu-Natal last month by men who allegedly pretended to be soldiers to gain entry into her home.
We feel the pain of the family of 14-year-old Simphiwe Sibeko who went missing from her Soweto home, and whose body was found dumped in bushes last week.
As a nation, we are saddened at the death of Constable Percy Ramalepe who was shot and killed while attending to a domestic violence call in Johannesburg last week.
It is disturbing that during a time of such immense difficulty for our country, women and girls are being terrorised inside their own homes, forcing them to make desperate calls for help. The number of calls to the GBV National Command Centre has increased since the lockdown began on 27 March.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has become a global problem.
Last week the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message that since restrictions were imposed by countries around the world to contain the coronavirus, women and girls were increasingly facing violence “where they should be safest: in their own homes”.
While reaffirming that lockdowns and quarantines were essential, Secretary-General Guterres said they were trapping women with abusive partners, resulting in “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence”.
“In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled,” the UN Secretary-General said.
As South Africa we have heeded the call for governments to prioritise gender-based violence in their national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue to implement the Emergency Response Plan to end gender-based violence that was announced last year.
Support services to vulnerable women and children remain operational throughout the lockdown, including psycho-social services like counselling for women and children, sheltering and places of safety, and medico-legal services in cases of sexual violence.
The Gender-Based Violence National Command Centre remains operational. I have directed the Minister of Police to ensure that Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units are reinforced at police stations during the lockdown and beyond.
We recognise since people may not leave their homes, women and children in abusive situations are vulnerable. Survivors of violence may not have access to phones or airtime, or public transport to take them to a police station, shelter or a doctor.
To this effect the Interim Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, in consultation with civil society organisations is developing guidelines and protocols for GBV management in the context of COVID-19.
Our law-enforcement officials are to be commended for swiftly arresting suspects in the recent murders of the two women. They should also be commended for arresting and charging 148 suspects for crimes of gender-based violence since the start of the lockdown.
We are aware that the restrictions that have been placed on people’s movement and the confinement to their homes is a frustration for many.
But there is no excuse, nor will there ever be any excuse, for violence – against women, children, the elderly, members of the LGBTQI+ community, foreign nationals, not against anyone.
Vandalism of public property and key economic infrastructure will not be tolerated. We call upon communities to play their part in reporting such acts, because they seldom take place in the absence of witnesses.
When communities allow themselves to be passive bystanders when they witness crime, they become party to the sabotage that ultimately disadvantages ourselves, our children and our communities.
I have a message for those callous criminals who think they can take advantage. The criminal justice system is not on leave. Our law enforcement authorities will deal with those who transgress the law. You will be arrested, you will be tried and you will be put behind bars.
As the UN Secretary-General said in his message, women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies. Violence against women erodes the moral fibre of our society. It sinks its insidious roots in families and communities, causing the cycle to be repeated across generations.
Our resolve and commitment to rid our country of this scourge remains firm. We will continue to bring all the state’s resources to bear to support vulnerable women and children, and ensure that perpetrators face the full might of the law.
I call on the men of South Africa and all citizens to play their part to combat gender-based violence and to provide survivors with the necessary support and assistance. This time of difficulty does not diminish the responsibility of every citizen to respect the rights and dignity of others.
Some have called for a gender-based violence ‘ceasefire’ during the time of pandemic. This is not enough. We want to see it end, once and for all.
With best wishes,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Monday, 06 April 2020
Dear Fellow South African,
One thing we have learnt about the coronavirus over the last three months is that it does not respect borders. It has spread across Asia, Europe, North, Central and South America and Africa.
Distinctions of wealth, poverty, nationality, race and class have been rendered meaningless as infections grow in developed and developing countries alike.
The coronavirus pandemic has served as a stark reminder that in our interconnected world, no country and no nation exists for and of itself. It has affirmed once again that realising a continent and a world free of hunger, want and disease requires the collective effort of all.
South Africa is not the only African country battling to contain the spread of the worst global public health emergency in a century. To date there have been over 7,800 confirmed cases in nearly 50 African countries.
A number of African countries have embarked on similar measures to those we have adopted here, such as border closures, nationwide lockdowns and the roll-out of mass screening and testing programmes.
Now, African countries are working together. Africa is speaking with one voice and acting in unison.
Last Friday, I convened a teleconference of the African Union Bureau, which consists of the leaders of Egypt, Mali, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. Other participants in the call included the leaders of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal and Zimbabwe. We received presentations from WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr John Nkengasong, who provided an update on the state of the pandemic in Africa and across the world.
What they told us was extremely concerning. It confirmed the need to act swiftly and to undertake extraordinary measures.
There is a common appreciation that this virus, if not contained, could present a very real and serious setback to all our countries as we strive to eradicate poverty, inequality and underdevelopment in already constrained circumstances.
We agreed to establish regional coronavirus task forces in each of Africa’s five regions: Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Northern Africa. They will oversee screening, detection and diagnosis; infection prevention and control; clinical management of infected persons; and communication and community engagement.
While Africa has weak health systems and millions of people live in conditions of poverty, several countries across Africa have wide-ranging and extensive experience in managing infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. The task forces will put this experience to good effect as we confront the current health emergency.
However, Africa is facing a severe shortage of coronavirus test kits, medicines, face masks and other personal protection equipment. We are therefore working with the WHO, Africa CDC and various world leaders to mobilise international support for Africa, to enable the flow of vital supplies into the continent and to significantly increase local production in African countries.
We have established an African Union COVID-19 Response Fund, to which AU Bureau members have already committed $12.5 million. Funding to the Africa CDC, which is driving the continental health response, will be increased, with an additional $4.5 million already committed.
Africa cannot do this alone. During the virtual summit of G20 leaders late last month, I raised the need for financial and logistical support for Africa’s response. Given the substantial toll this pandemic is already taking on African economies, the assistance that will be needed could run into billions of dollars.
A number of measures have been proposed by the AU Bureau, including a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa. This could include debt relief in the form of interest payment waivers and deferred payments. This would free up much-needed financial resources now that national budgets are being reprioritised to support the coronavirus response.
This is really a time when not just the G20 countries but other international partners and financial institutions need to practically demonstrate their commitment to supporting developing economies in Africa and around the world.
In the last week, I have had useful discussions with a number of world leaders including the UN Secretary-General, EU Commission President and the leaders of France, Russia and Cuba. As South Africa, we continue to receive practical support from countries like the United States, China, Cuba and Russia.
Even as these countries struggle to contain the pandemic themselves, they are willing to support South Africa’s and Africa’s response. In uniting behind this global health emergency, as African countries we have shown once again our ability to transcend political and other differences in pursuit of a common objective. We should seize this moment to deepen collaboration across other areas, such as development or trade.
This global pandemic has exposed the fragility of inward-looking and insular political, economic and social systems. It is leading some to call for ‘a new moral economy’ that has people and their welfare at its centre.
It has opened up space for critical action around social spending and equitable access to health care. It is challenging widely held preconceptions about the abilities of developing countries to respond to national emergencies.
In both their respective national responses and the continental effort, African countries can hold their own.
In collaboration with the WHO our pandemic preparedness plans have been solid. In areas where constraints exist, there has been demonstrated commitment to extend support and capacity to those countries in need.
Our Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is world-class. As are our health professionals, scientists and epidemiologists. With the necessary international support, we can bolster health infrastructure and health systems on the continent. At the same time, African countries will help each other.
If we continue in this positive vein, Africa will truly demonstrate it is more than capable of resolving it challenges. Through deeper collaboration, we will turn the tide against this virus, region by region, country by country.
With best wishes,
President Cyril RAMAPHOSA
9 April 2020
My Fellow South Africans,
At midnight tonight, it will be exactly two weeks since our country entered into an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
During the course of these last two weeks, your lives have been severely disrupted, you have suffered great hardship and endured much uncertainty.
We have closed our borders to the world, our children are not in school, businesses have closed their operations, many have lost their income, and our economy has ground to a halt.
And yet, faced with such daunting challenges, you, the people of South Africa, have responded with remarkable patience and courage.
You have respected the lockdown and largely observed the regulations.
You have accepted the severe restrictions on your movement and many of the daily freedoms that we all take for granted.
You have done so because you have understood the devastating effect that this disease will have on the health and well-being of all South Africans unless we take drastic measures.
You have also understood that we must do everything in our power to prevent the massive loss of life that would occur if we did not act.
For your cooperation, for your commitment and above all for your patience, I wish to thank you personally.
I wish to thank you for reaffirming to each other and to the world that we South Africans are a people who come together and unite at moments of great crisis.
Earlier today I had a most productive meeting with our Premiers about the work they are doing in provinces and districts to stop the spread of the virus.
I also had a discussion with the leaders of all our political parties represented in Parliament, who collectively pledged their support for the efforts that are being made to combat the pandemic.
Through this we are demonstrating that we are able to work together across party lines to confront a common threat.
Since I announced the lockdown just over two weeks ago, the global coronavirus pandemic has worsened.
Two weeks ago, there were 340,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.
We now have over 1.5 million confirmed cases worldwide.
Over 90,000 people across the world have died from this disease.
The health systems of many countries have been overwhelmed.
Even the most developed economies in the world have not had the means to treat the many thousands who have fallen ill.
They have struggled to find the medical supplies and personnel necessary to deal with the pandemic.
The devastating effect of this is that many people have died.
The global evidence is overwhelming.
It confirms that our decision to declare a national state of disaster and to institute a nation-wide lockdown was correct and it was timely.
While it is too early to make a definitive analysis of the progression of the disease in South Africa, there is sufficient evidence to show that the lockdown is working.
Since the lockdown came into effect, the rate at which new cases have been identified here in South Africa has slowed significantly.
From 1,170 confirmed cases on the 27th of March, the number of confirmed cases today stands at 1,934.
In the two weeks before the lockdown, the average daily increase in new cases was around 42%.
Since the start of the lockdown, the average daily increase has been around 4%.
While we recognise the need to expand testing to gain a better picture of the infection rate, this represents real progress.
The measures we have taken – such as closing our borders and prohibiting gatherings – as well as the changes that we have each had to make in our own behaviour, have definitely slowed the spread of the virus.
But the struggle against the coronavirus is far from over.
We are only at the beginning of a monumental struggle that demands our every resource and our every effort.
We cannot relax. We cannot be complacent.
In the coming weeks and months, we must massively increase the extent of our response and expand the reach of our interventions.
We are learning both from the experiences of other countries and from the evidence we now have about the development of the pandemic in South Africa.
Both make a clear and compelling case to proceed in a manner that is cautious and properly calibrated.
Simply put, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.
We risk reversing the gains we have made over the last few weeks, and rendering meaningless the great sacrifices we have all made.
Fellow South Africans,
This evening, I stand before you to ask you to endure even longer.
I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices so that our country may survive this crisis and so that tens of thousands of lives may be saved.
After careful consideration of the available evidence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to extend the nation-wide lockdown by a further two weeks beyond the initial 21 days.
This means that most of the existing lockdown measures will remain in force until the end of April.
We will use the coming days to evaluate how we will embark on risk-adjusted measures that can enable a phased recovery of the economy, allowing the return to operation of certain sectors under strictly controlled conditions.
We will also use this time to ramp up our public health interventions.
We did not take this decision to extend the lockdown lightly.
As your President, I am mindful of the great and heavy burden this will impose on you.
I am keenly aware of the impact this will have on our economy.
But I know, as you do, that unless we take these difficult measures now, unless we hold to this course for a little longer, the coronavirus pandemic will engulf, and ultimately consume, our country.
We all want the economy to come back to life, we want people to return to work, we want our children to go back to school, and we all want to be able to move freely again.
But our immediate priority must remain to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life.
We must do this while preventing our economy from collapsing and saving our people from hunger.
We are determined to pursue a path that both saves lives and protects livelihoods.
Our strategy is made up of three parts:
- Firstly, an intensified public health response to slow down and reduce infections.
- Secondly, a comprehensive package of economic support measures to assist businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.
- Thirdly, a programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households.
As government, together with our many partners, we have used this lockdown period to both refine and intensify our public health strategy to manage the coronavirus.
Our approach is to screen in communities and test people in hospitals, clinics and mobile clinics, to isolate those who are infected, and to care for those who are ill in our health facilities.
We need to do this intensively and systematically.
We have used the last week to develop our screening and testing methodology in various parts of the country.
Over the next two weeks, we will roll out the community screening and testing programme across all provinces, focusing in particular on highly vulnerable communities.
Those who test positive and cannot self-isolate at home will be isolated at special facilities that have been identified and are now being equipped.
At all times, we will observe the human rights of all people.
Let us not discriminate against people who test positive.
To ensure that our strategies are effectively coordinated and to ensure they are informed by comprehensive, real-time data, we have established the COVID-19 Information Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
This world-class centre will keep track of all screening, testing, isolation and hospitalisation throughout the country.
It is already identifying infection hotspots.
It is following the spread and the severity of the disease, and enabling us to move our focus and resources where they are most needed.
We are working with mobile telephony companies and other institutions to locate those people who have tested positive for the virus and those with whom they have been in contact.
As part of the second element of our strategy, we have put in place various measures to provide support to businesses in distress, to workers facing loss of income, to the self-employed and to informal businesses.
Many of these measures are being taken up by both large and small businesses.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund has set aside R40 billion to help employees who will be unable to work, as part of the effort to prevent jobs losses as a result of the lockdown.
To date, it has paid out R356 million.
I would like to applaud all those employers who have continued to pay their workers during this difficult time, as well as those employers who are working with unions and government to assist their employees to access these benefits.
I would like to call on all businesses to continue to pay their suppliers, to the extent that they can, to ensure that those suppliers can also continue to operate and pay their staff and suppliers.
In this respect, I would like to appeal to all large businesses not to resort to force majeure and stop paying their suppliers and rental commitments, as such practice has a domino effect on all other businesses dependent on that chain.
We must do all we can to ensure that the underlying economy continues to function and to focus support on those small businesses that really need them.
The Industrial Development Corporation has set aside R3 billion for the procurement of essential medical supplies.
It has already approved R130 million in funding and expects to approve a further R400 million in the coming week to companies who applied for funding under this special facility.
The Small Enterprise Finance Agency has approved the postponement of loan repayments for a period of 6 months.
The small business debt relief and business growth facilities are currently adjudicating applications for assistance.
There is a total of R500 million available in support.
Government has reprioritised R1.2 billion to provide relief to smallholder farmers and to contribute to the security of food supply.
In addition to these expenditure measures, the Reserve Bank has also lowered interest rates and has taken measures to inject liquidity into the economy.
One of the biggest challenges that all countries in the world are facing is the shortage of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.
As a country we have had to rely on our own capabilities to supply these goods, but have also had to source supplies from other countries.
In recent weeks, we have seen a massive mobilisation of South African business, labour, academics and government agencies to build the stocks of medical and other equipment needed to fight coronavirus.
We have, for example, established the National Ventilator Project to rapidly mobilise the technical and industrial resources of our country to manufacture non-invasive ventilators, which can be used to support patients afflicted with the disease.
Other projects are focusing on increasing the local manufacture of protective face masks, hand sanitisers and pharmaceutical products which can be used by health care workers and the public at large.
As the third part of our coronavirus response, we have been working to provide basic needs such as water and to maintain the reliability of food supply to the poorest South Africans.
We have also expanded the provision of food parcels and we’ve provided spaza shops with financial support.
To date, government has delivered over 11,000 water storage tanks to communities in need across the country, and many of these have been installed.
In addition, 1,000 water tankers have been provided for the delivery of water.
Several homeless people have been accommodated in 154 shelters.
I am pleased to report that the Solidarity Fund – which was established to mobilise resources from companies, organisations and individuals to combat the coronavirus pandemic – has so far raised around R2.2 billion.
It has already allocated around R1 billion to buy sterile gloves, face shields, surgical masks, test kits and ventilators.
It will also allocate funds for humanitarian relief to vulnerable households, in addition to the R400 million set aside by government for Social Relief of Distress grants.
All of these efforts, while necessary and commendable, will not be sufficient on their own to cushion the poor from the impact of this pandemic.
Nor will they provide the relief that businesses and their employees require.
Additional extraordinary measures will need to be put in place in the coming weeks and months to absorb the sudden loss of income to both businesses and individuals.
We are in a situation that demands swift action and exceptional methods, a situation that demands innovation and the mobilisation of every resource that we have.
Cabinet will be developing a comprehensive package of urgent economic measures to respond both to the immediate crisis and to the severe economic challenges that we must confront in the months ahead.
Further announcements on the next phase of our economic and social support strategy will be made in due course.
An essential part of our response to this emergency is the principle of solidarity.
From across society, companies and individuals have come forward to provide financial and other assistance.
In support of this effort, we have decided that the President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers will each take a one-third cut in their salaries for the next three months.
This portion of their salaries will be donated to the Solidarity Fund.
We are calling on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture and to further increase the reach of this national effort.
In this regard, we welcome the donation of 20,000 cell phones by Vodacom for health workers that will be involved in screening and tracing in communities;
As we have stressed before and we will stress once again, our struggle against the coronavirus requires fundamental changes in behaviour from all of us.
Until we have contained the coronavirus, the same rules remain.
Shaking hands, hugging, sitting close to each other and other forms of physical contact enable this virus to be transmitted, and must be avoided.
We must continue to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly using water and soap or sanitiser.
To stay safe and to keep others safe we must continue to respect whatever restrictions that are placed on our movement and on our daily lives
Over the past two weeks, I have been speaking to other African leaders about a coordinated continental effort to combat the coronavirus and support our people and our economies.
We have established an AU COVID-19 Response Fund to mobilise the resources necessary to support this effort.
We have reached out to world leaders, even as they struggle with the pandemic in their countries, to assist the continent with essential medical supplies and to support a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa.
As we confront this disease in our country, we are part of a great global effort that is bringing humanity together in ways that many never thought possible.
For billions across the world, and for us here in South Africa, the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything.
We can no longer work in the way we have before.
As government, as NGOs, as political parties, as large corporations and small businesses, as financial institutions, as community organisations and as South Africans we will need to adapt to a new reality.
As we emerge from this crisis, our country will need to undergo a process of fundamental reconstruction.
To do so, we will draw on our strengths: our abundant natural resources, our advanced infrastructure, our deep financial markets, our proven capabilities in information and communication technology, and the depth of talent among our people.
We will draw on our proven capacity for innovation and creativity, our ability to come together in a crisis, and our commitment to each other and our common future.
We will learn from global experience and the best scientific evidence, but we will craft a uniquely South African response that uses our own capabilities as a nation.
This weekend is a sacred time for many South Africans.
For many, it will be difficult to spend this time without their friends and family.
I ask that you keep in your thoughts tonight all in our land who are vulnerable, destitute and alone.
I ask that you give what you can to alleviate their burden.
To contribute to the Solidarity Fund in any way you can.
This is a difficult time for us all.
Yet the message of Easter is one we carry in our hearts tonight.
It is the message of hope, of recovery and of rebirth.
As we walk this road together, as we struggle to defeat this pandemic, we remain strong and united and resolved.
Much is being asked of you, far more than should ever be asked.
But we know that this is a matter of survival, and we dare not fail.
We shall recover.
We shall overcome.
May God bless South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.
COMMUNIQUE OF THE AFRICAN UNION (AU) BUREAU OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT TELECONFERENCE MEETING- 3 APRIL 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, and Chairperson of the African Union (AU) convened a second and follow-up teleconference meeting of the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government, on 3 April 2020, to discuss the African response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The following members of the Bureau participated in the teleconference meeting: President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt, President Ibrahim Keita of the Republic of Mali, President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya, and President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Republic of Zimbabwe also participated in the teleconference. The Bureau received presentations from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC gave a continental update which highlighted rapidly increasing Covid-19 infection rates across the continent
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus emphasised the importance of acting now to test and to guarantee equitable access to test kits, masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs), vaccines and therapeutics as soon as they become available.
The Bureau of Heads of State and Government commended the able stewardship of exemplary leadership of Dr Tedros in leading the global response to the pandemic.
The Heads of States highlighted the unprecedented threat that Covid-19 presents to the health of African citizens and to the continent’s hard-won developmental and economic gains. They also recognised the imperative to establish humanitarian and trade corridors in a spirit of African solidarity and integration.
Given the urgent need for medical supplies and equipment, the Heads of states called for international cooperation and support while up-scaling local production on the continent.
The Heads of States noted with satisfaction progress made in operationalising the African Union Covid-19 Response Fund established on 26 March 2020 to which members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.
It was agreed to establish continental ministerial coordination committees on Health, Finance and Transport to coordinate in order to support the comprehensive continental strategy.
The Heads of States underscored the need for a comprehensive and coordinated continental approach, and to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities.
Cognizant of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries, the Bureau reiterated the need for rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20 and other international partners, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is critical that these institutions review their current disbursement policies to display flexibility and speed, including raising the availability of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The Bureau also echoed the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including, deferred payments, and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt in order to create fiscal space for Covid-19 response measures.
Lifesaving supplies including PPEs, masks, gowns, and ventilators and other support devices are urgently needed. The Bureau commended the rapid action coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation in mobilising and distributing, with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) and Africa CDC, over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.
The Heads of States and Government strongly urged for the immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan to allow them to adequately respond to the pandemic and save lives. The African Union has repeatedly called for the lifting of these punitive sanctions, which the Bureau consider intolerable and inhumane in the present context.
It was noted that the Sahel region need special attention in the light of terrorist activity, and pledge solidarity with the countries in this region who have to fight the twin scourge of terrorism and COVID-19.
The Heads of States and Government thanked President Emmanuel Macron for his strong support for Africa during the Extraordinary G20 Summit. The Bureau expressed its support for the proposals he raised regarding a comprehensive approach to mobilising international support for Africa’s health, economic, humanitarian, and medical research priorities, which are aligned with the in African position. The Bureau also acknowledged the commitment of the People’s Republic of China for its support and solidarity with Africa.
4 April 2020