President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also Chairperson of the African Union (AU), has used his address to the UN General Assembly, to call on world leaders to help African countries and their developing economies recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are concerns among economists that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a much worse effect on the economies of developing nations – many of which are in Africa.

South Africa was already in recession when the coronavirus pandemic arrived and the country is expected to face massive debts, including those accumulated during efforts to revive the economy following the hard lockdown.

President Ramaphosa also called for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa.

“When the Secretary-General delivered the 18th annual Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture he said we must create equal opportunities for all and that there should be greater access to affordable credit for developing countries. It is a call that we as South Africa wholly endorse. We call on the international community to support the roll-out of a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries to aid us in rebuilding our shattered economies.”

Ramaphosa also called for the suspension of interest payments on Africa’s debt.

“We also call for the suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external and public debt.  As the African Union, we are encouraged by the collaboration of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN towards finding solutions to debt sustainability in developing countries. This pandemic has highlighted the urgency with which we must strive to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals, but importantly Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. For until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realising the vision of the founders of the United Nations.”

Africa’s developmental aspirations 

President Ramaphosa warned that the pandemic will inevitably set back the continent’s developmental aspirations and backed a call from the UN Secretary-General for a New Global Deal that would support the rebuilding of the region’s shattered economies.

He pointed to the pandemic as having highlighted the urgency with which the world must strive to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

“It is a call we as South Africa wholly endorse. It is in the spirit of this New Global Deal, that we call on the international community and our international partners to support the rollout of a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa. This will enable African countries to not only mitigate the health impacts of COVID-19 but to aid us in the immense task of rebuilding our shattered economies. To ensure that no country is left behind we reiterate our position as the African Union that economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan be lifted to allow their governments to respond adequately to the pandemic.”

 Violence against women and children 

He called for swift action against institutionalised racism and for the UN to spare no effort to end prejudice and intolerance while intensifying efforts to empower women and girls and eradicate gender-based violence and femicide.

President Ramaphosa says Africa is working on a convention to tackle violence against women and children.

Ramaphosa has described gender-based violence as a second pandemic being faced by the world as it fights COVID-19.  He says gender equality is an important issue and the empowerment of women must be prioritised.

“South Africa is proud of the UN Generation Equality campaign and has prioritised the eradication of gender-based violence and femicide. At a continental level, we are working to finalise and adopt an AU convention on violence against women during the course of this year. AU member states are engaging on measures to promote financial inclusion, preferential procurement, and preferential trade agreements for women. “

Ramaphosa urged that the UN’s 75th anniversary be used to reinvigorate Inter-Governmental Negotiations towards reforming the UN Security Council.

World leaders gather to mark the 75th anniversary of the UN General Assembly: