Despite having 3.5 million Africans infected and 90,000 of them killed by the coronavirus, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday commended the continent’s “collective work” in fighting against the pandemic.Writing in his weekly letter, the South African leader applauded Africa’s decision to vaccinate the majority of its 1.3 billion people by the end of 2021.
“Vaccine rollout has already commenced on the continent and we aspire to have the majority of the continent’s population vaccinated by the end of 2021 to achieve herd immunity,” said Ramaphosa whose one-year tenure as African Union chairman ends this week.
He is due to hand over the AU chairmanship to Democratic Republic of Congo President Etienne Tshisekedi at the end of the week.
According to Ramaphosa, under his leadership the AU took charge of coordinating Africa’s response immediately after Covid-19 hit the continent on 14 February in Egypt, which incidentally was Ramaphosa’s first month in the AU chair.
Describing the pandemic as “health, humanitarian, social and economic crises,” he said African countries have responded to fighting the Covid-19 collectively by setting up mitigating measures to help themselves “manage a health emergency of this size.”
African countries came together to fight the pandemic, drawing principally on the continent’s own expertise, capabilities and institutions such as the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Ramaphosa said.
“Africa did not sit by passively as the true extent and danger of the pandemic unfurled. From the earliest days of the pandemic – and led by the AU – we swiftly developed a continental response strategy driven by the Africa CDC and regional task forces.”
The South African leader said the AU realised that every country on the continent would be severely affected by the pandemic, and that most would not have the resources needed to meet the public health challenge or to protect their economies.
“We therefore agreed as African countries to appoint several prominent Africans as special envoys, who would engage with international funders and multilateral institutions to make the case for financial support and debt relief on Africa’s behalf,” the outgoing AU chair said.
Due to this, the continent was able to achieve debt relief for many countries and financial assistance towards the Covid-19 response and economic recovery, he said.
“But much as African countries went to the international community for support, we first helped ourselves – establishing and capitalising a continental Covid-19 Response Fund.
“For every partnership forged with better-resourced nations and the international donor community, we set up our own innovative and ground-breaking African Medical Supplies Platform to enable all African countries to quickly secure personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in an equitable, affordable manner,” the president said.
The president said with the Covid-19 vaccine now available, the AU worked to ensure that the continent secured its fair share, working with the UN World Health Organisation’s COVAX Facility as led by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.