A report by the UN released on 23 April argues that the coronavirus pandemic should not be used as a pretext for autocratic regimes to crack down on human rights and block the free flow of information, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said the global public health crisis is rapidly turning into a human rights crisis.
Ramaphosa believes such action would enable Zimbabwe and Sudan “to respond adequately to the pandemic and save lives.”
The AU chair made the appeal on 22 April during a virtual gathering of the continental body’s Bureau of Heads of State and Government that included African business leaders.
The Bureau comprises the presidents of Kenya, Egypt, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
The heads of state of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe also dialled into the meeting. AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat was also part of the gathering.
The leaders are in agreement about adopting a unified stance and mounting a co-ordinated response to combat the coronavirus crisis, which poses a threat to the region’s economies.
In it together
Since the COVID-19 outbreak became a global pandemic and entered the continent, the Bureau of Heads of State and Government has met twice.
“We recognised the critical role of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against communicable diseases in general and in the fight against COVID-19 in particular. The Bureau made pledges of $4.5m towards boosting the capacity of the [centre],” said Ramaphosa.
Furthermore, the Bureau of Heads of State and Government gave consent to found the Africa COVID-19 Fund, to which member states made a $12.5m contribution as seed funding.
Ramaphosa has appealed to the rest of the AU community, international role-players and philanthropic organisations to provide additional funding.
“We also agreed on the need for G20 [Group of 20] countries to provide a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa,” he said.
Ramaphosa also considers the private sector well placed to assist in the many pressing challenges confronting the region.
The AU chair has had engagements with World Bank president David Malpass, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva, European Union Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and world leaders to make the case for the continent.
“I encouraged the World Bank, the IMF, the African Development Bank and other regional institutions to use all … instruments to help combat COVID-19 in Africa,” he revealed.
Domestically, Ramaphosa has mobilised funding and resources to help South Africa fight the coronavirus outbreak.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa had a call with US President Donald Trump, which was followed by the American head of state pledging more support.
The article continues below
Get your free PDF: The Sahel trap
States under strain
Complete the form for your free download of The Africa Report’s special feature "The Sahel trap". Get your free PDF by completing the following form.
Through the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Trump administration has committed $13.2m to assist South Africa’s response to the pandemic. In total, the US government’s support package to South Africa amounts to $21.5m.
The money will be spent on surveillance and lab support, infection prevention and control, emergency operations centres, and border health and vaccine preparedness.
In addition, the funds will be used to conduct special studies related to COVID-19 in South Africa to improve the response in country and to inform best practices around the globe, according to a US government statement.
Understand Africa's tomorrow... today
We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.View subscription options