Managing COVID-19 emboldens African nations
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic have breathed new life into the cause of African unity.
The President addressed the nation through his weekly bulletin.
This month marks two years since the first case of COVID-19 was detected on the African continent.
“Our experience in dealing with COVID-19 has emboldened African nations. It has shown us that resources and capacities exist on our own continent to deal with emergencies of this magnitude. It has reminded us that we have institutions world-class like the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that need to be supported and empowered to fulfill their mandate.
“This has given new impetus to the project of political and economic integration, which has been strengthened by the advent of the AfCFTA,” the president said.
The continent has so far recorded at least 11 million cases of the virus with some 246,000 deaths from the infection.
President Ramaphosa said that while the numbers remain devastating, the African continent has defied “dire predictions” about the impact the virus would have on the continent.
“Several reasons have been suggested for this ‘paradox’. These include the continent’s relatively young population, experience in fighting epidemics, exposure of the population to previous infections and travel restrictions in many countries,” he said.
The President stressed that the unity shown by the continent in the face of the deadly pandemic has also been crucial.
“Another reason that has been suggested is the rapid response of the African Union to the pandemic, leading a coordinated response and a unified strategy. This strategy has mobilized resources to strengthen national health systems, put in place a platform form online to secure medical supplies, engaged a large-scale continent to acquire vaccines, and led effective public health communications.
“At a time when decisive leadership was required, African leaders stepped up,” he said.
President Ramaphosa explained that as the spread of COVID-19 accelerated across the world, the African continent realized that “our continent could not rely on the generosity of rich countries”.
He said many of these countries promised to support Africa but then hindered recovery from the pandemic by, for example, imposing travel restrictions.
“[The pandemic] showed us how fragile our global partnerships can be, especially in a global emergency. More importantly, it has strengthened our collective resolve to intensify the pressure on countries with developed economies to give us not charity, but our just due.
“But nowhere has this been more apparent than in the unacceptable practice of developed countries buying and hoarding all available stocks of COVID-19 vaccines in quantities far exceeding the needs of their populations. This while large swathes of the so-called developing world were struggling to access it for their people,” he said.
President Ramaphosa stressed that the establishment of the Cape Town-based mRNA Technology Transfer Center is a vital step for the continent to manufacture vaccines for its own people.
“We will continue to advocate for building Africa’s capacity to produce its own vaccines, including through a temporary waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Without being able to manufacture our own vaccines, an equitable recovery will not be possible,” he said.
President Ramaphosa stressed that the continent is determined to solve its own challenges.
“We must rise by making our own medicines to cure our people and save lives. We must develop our own economies through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), promote investment and tourism in Africa , accelerate industrialization and boost green growth and We must end all conflict and entrench democracy and good governance.
“Africa has found a new voice. It is bold and unapologetic in its expectations of our partners. At the same time, we are determined that Africa’s challenges must be, are and will be resolved. by Africans themselves,” he said.
(With contributions from the South African government press release)