President Cyril Ramaphosa says the coronavirus pandemic has shown Africa’s ability in working together to solve its own problems. Delivering the Africa Day speech as African Union (AU) Chairperson on Monday, he says Africa is firmly managing the global public health crisis.
The continent has more than 96 000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 3 000 deaths.
Ramaphosa says the positive that can be taken from the pandemic is that governments have accelerated their development agendas.
“The virus has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on our continent and across the world. But at the same time, this global crisis should enable a new Africa to come to the fore. It should be an Africa of heroic acts of solidarity; an Africa of cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources; an Africa that is united by a common goal.”
Below is the African Union Chairperson’s address:
Africa celebrates 57 years since the formation of the OAU that ushered in democracy & development for its people. This year is special as we celebrate with the founding father who in his lifetime sees the integration they envisioned at a time when it seemed impossible. #AfricaDay pic.twitter.com/Xn2snD8wS5
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) May 25, 2020
History of Africa Day
In 1958, a congress was held in Ghana to both celebrate countries that had reached independence from European colonial rule and plot a way forward to free nations on the continent that were still under colonial rule. South Africa was not invited to the congress as it was governed under apartheid.
Much of the decolonisation of Africa happened between the 1950s and 1975. This saw countries move from colonial rule to independence under the leadership of African leaders.
South Africa was the last country on the continent to celebrate freedom when it held its first democratic election and had its first Black president, Nelson Mandela in 1994.
Below is a graphic of the history behind Africa Day:
Below is today’s full speech:
Today marks the 57th commemoration of the establishment of AU.
The economic impact of COVID-19 on Africa
Africa Day is being celebrated under the cloud of COVID-19 with the impact being felt across Africa. People’s lives have been greatly affected and the economic impact has been catastrophic.
According to Worldometer, Africa’s population as of May 2020 was over 1.33 billion as per United Nations’ estimates.
Research done by the World Bank says one in three Africans (over 420 million) lives below the Global Poverty Line.
Many African countries have implemented lockdowns amid the virus. This has meant restricted movement, with many businesses not operating and in most cases, only essential services being allowed to continue. Social gatherings have been banned under many of the lockdown regulations.
The impact of the virus has put economies of African nations under severe stress with many seeking help from organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Countries have also pledged money within their economies to lessen the blow the virus has had on businesses and people’s livelihoods.
Highlights of economic initiatives to combat the effect of COVID-19 in Africa:
- The World Bank approved a $1 billion loan for Kenya to help it close a gaping budget deficit and tackle the economic shocks from the coronavirus.
- Nigeria’s economy could shrink as much as 8.9% in 2020 in a worst-case scenario without stimulus, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said.
- Egypt’s central bank will provide up to 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($6.36 billion) in loan guarantees to banks to encourage lending to businesses during the coronavirus
- Uganda will receive an emergency loan worth $491.5 million from the International Monetary Fund to help cushion its economy from the impact of the new coronavirus
- The World Bank will grant $7 million to Zimbabwe to help it fight the new coronavirus outbreak that is expected to worsen an already struggling economy and food crisis
- The African Union (AU) has pledged $1.3 million to accelerate development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies.
- African Investors agree that fast-tracking the African Union’s 5% infrastructure agenda is critical in the fight against COVID-19.
- Nigeria is wooing local companies to boost manufacturing and food production in the West African country, the central bank said, after the novel coronavirus disrupted imports and created large financing needs.