The Sunday News
AFRICA is reclaiming its sovereign right to deal with challenges facing the continent — through solving conflicts, rallying member states to lobby for the removal of sanctions and fighting disease outbreaks.
In an interview with our Harare Bureau to mark Africa Day, South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe, His Excellency Mphakama Mbete, said Africa should take the lead in formulating solutions for current and future global challenges.
South Africa is the current chair of the African Union (AU).
He said the continent could achieve this through multilateral collaboration, and strengthening its research and public health resilience systems.
This comes as Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, has pointed out the positive action taken by AU chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who recently appointed special envoys, among other interventions, in the continent’s efforts to combat Covid-19.
Ambassador Mbete said Africa should exploit the use of indigenous knowledge systems as part of the broader efforts of finding a cure for the contagion.
He said the AU was structuring debt relief and economic stimulus packages with International Finance Institutions (IFIs) for African nations affected by the pandemic, including Zimbabwe.
As part of the interstate collaboration, South African medical experts had begun working with Madagascan authorities to authenticate the efficacy of a herbal remedy being used in the island nation to prevent and cure Covid-19. Madagascar is promoting Covid-Organics, a herbal tea previously used to cure malaria in the country but is now being used as a treatment regimen for Covid-19.
“I would say the underlying and fundamental solution is to do what we are already trying to do. We have to accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2063, our strategic blueprint for the future. If we attend to that as best as we can, we begin to anticipate and solve problems that can come in the future.
“But it’s very important to intensify co-operation between our institutions in the area of science, technology, research and innovation. We have got to strengthen the body of science, technology, research and innovation in Africa so that we are in a position to apply solutions that are African-born and African-led.”
He said the continent was actively lobbying for assistance, including the removal of sanctions for African countries that are struggling with containing the pandemic. He said IFIs should offer economic stimulus packages for countries in need.
“It is not only countries that are under sanctions that have been affected and need assistance.
“We are calling on the world and international finance institutions in particular, to stay debts that these countries owe. We are calling on IFIs and the international community in general to help these countries… (with) economic stimulus packages to assist them through this difficult situation.”
The AU, said Ambassador Mbete, has created a multi-million dollar fund to assist countries’ response to the coronavirus. In a separate interview, Dr SB Moyo said Africa Day is a time to reflect on the common challenges that the continent faces.
“The 25th of May will forever be a special day across the African continent, a day to remind ourselves of our rich and diverse history and aspirations, evaluate the progress made in advancing the principles of democracy and governance, peace and stability, development as well as celebrating the continent’s togetherness and unity in purpose. This year’s theme is in line with Aspiration 1 of Agenda 2063, which speaks about a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. This is in line with the country’s Vision 2030 of an upper middle-income economy.”
Minister Moyo said although this year’s Africa Day celebrations will be subdued due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the AU under the leadership of President Ramaphosa had made significant interventions to fight coronavirus.
“While the virus is present in all African countries, most have recorded fewer than 1 000 cases. After the first case was reported in February 2020, the African Union acted swiftly, endorsing a joint continental strategy, and complementing efforts by member states and regional economic communities by providing a public health platform.”
The African Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, appointed four special envoys to mobilise international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic fallout of Covid-19.
“The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) began to curate real time information, in close collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Africa CDC’s new Partnership on Accelerated Covid-19 Testing (PACT), which aims to test 10 million people within six months, complements Government efforts while building important inroads into promoting knowledge-based pandemic management,”said Dr Moyo.
Dr Moyo said the Africa CDC has established the Africa Covid-19 Response Fund in collaboration with the public-private AfroChampions initiative, to raise an initial US$150 million for immediate needs and up to US$400 million to support a sustained health response and socio-economic assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Africa. Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now AU) on 25 May 1963, which is celebrated globally.