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AU strengthening COVID-19 war chest – Ramaphosa

The African Union has so far raised more than US$60 million as the continental body intensifies efforts to build its…

The African Union has so far raised more than US$60 million as the continental body intensifies efforts to build its war chest against the coronavirus pandemic, AU chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.Addressing fellow leaders from countries in the Southern African region, Ramaphosa said the bulk of the funds would go towards supporting interventions by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To date, we have managed to raise $25 million for the Response Fund and an additional $36.5 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,” Ramaphosa revealed during the virtual meeting held with heads of state and government of neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

He said five recently appointed AU COVID-19 Special Envoys are following up on pledges already made as well as mobilising further international support and campaigning for international participation in the AU’s COVID-19 economic intervention.

The five envoys are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, Tidjane Thiam of Côte d’Ivoire, Trevor Manuel of South Africa and Benkhalfa Abderrahmane of Algeria.

According to the AU chairman, the response from the continental body’s international appeal for assistance has generally been positive, with various partners making pledges, offering debt relief measures and providing concrete support in the form of medical supplies.

“While the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have supported a debt standstill for 9 months, we believe that – given the extent of the anticipated damage – we will need a debt standstill for two years,” he said.

Noting that one of the biggest challenges faced by the continent was access to personal protection equipment, the AU chairperson said he has appointed Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa “to assist with efforts to source personal protection equipment for the region and the continent.”

“I have also engaged with the leaders of various countries, such as Cuba, China, Russia, France, Canada and the United States to ask for support for the continent.”

The virtual meeting came as the Africa CDC reported that Africa had as of Friday recorded 54,027 cases of coronavirus, with 2,074 deaths and 18,636 recoveries.

More than 8,800 – or 16 percent – of those cases were in Southern Africa, which has the third highest number of confirmed cases on the continent after North Africa and West Africa.

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