Coronavirus: Ease sanctions for Zimbabwe and Sudan pleads AU Chair

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Corona Chronicles: 27 April – 30 April

By Xolisa Phillip, in Johannesburg
Posted on Tuesday, 28 April 2020 15:51

Virus Outbreak Zimbabwe
Hundreds of people clear destroyed stalls in the area of a popular market in a campaign to clean up the city, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, April 18, 2020. Zimbabwe will commemorate its 40th Independence Day under the government instructed lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa has implored the international community to lift economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan to enable the countries to fight the spread of COVID-19.

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.

READ MORE: Zimbabwe is among African states least ready to tackle coronavirus

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.

READ MORE: Sudan’s quest to come off US terror list: what’s done, what’s missing

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.

Funding appeal

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.

Pooling resources

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.

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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: G20 states postpone some of Africa’s debts but block cancellation

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.

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