On Friday, President Paul Kagame joined fellow African leaders in a virtual meeting to discuss the way forward in the continent’s fight against the new Coronavirus pandemic.
The teleconference which was convened by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who is also the current Chairperson of the African Union (AU) was the second and it brought together AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government, to discuss the African response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The participating leaders included President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of Egypt, President Ibrahim Keita of Mali, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, President Macky Sall of Senegal, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.
There were 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
President Kagame described the meeting as ‘productive’, thanking his fellow African leaders for joining forces to avert a possible catastrophe COVID-19 can cause on the African continent.
“The meeting stressed the urgency and need to materialize all commitments swiftly and flexibly. Through coordinated action, we can succeed in mitigating the health and economic impact of #COVID19 on our population,”
“The loss of and damage to life and economy globally and particularly in Africa is colossal….and so must be the amounts of energy and financial package(s) to bring things back to normal and beyond,” President Kagame said.
Dr Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC gave a continental update which highlighted rapidly increasing COVID-19 infection rates across the continent while 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,” a Statement from AU reads.
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 State noted with satisfaction progress made in operationalizing 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,” the statement on the outcome of the meeting reads.
The leaders agreed to establish continental ministerial coordination committees on Health, Finance and Transport to coordinate in order to support the comprehensive continental strategy.
African leaders 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, 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,” the AU said.
It was agreed that lifesaving supplies including PPEs, masks, gowns, and ventilators and other support devices are urgently needed. The Bureau further 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 State 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 State 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 African position. The Bureau also acknowledged the commitment of the People’s Republic of China for its support and solidarity with Africa.