Saturday 4 April 2020


PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday night held a “very important” teleconference with several African Heads of State, French President Emmanuel Macron and World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders resolved to ratchet up the fight against Covid-19 through enhanced coordination.

Convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current African Union (AU) chair, the teleconference also comprised presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Felix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo), Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Egypt), Macky Sall (Senegal), Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (Mali) and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

Chairperson of the AU Commission Dr Moussa Faki was also part of the high-level discussions.

The parties focused on synchronising efforts as well as lobbying global support for debt relief and a financial package for African countries to save lives.

Yesterday, President Mnangagwa, who is chairperson of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, described the virtual indaba, which also touched on sanctions imposed on Harare, as “very important”.

“Very important call last night with leaders from across the region. This virus respects no borders. We must work together,” the President said on his official Twitter account. 

In an interview last night, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana said the diplomatic engagement bode well for Zimbabwe.

“This was a very enlightening meeting that came out with several resolutions that could be positive to Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Our President suggested during the conference that when the Global Fund for coronavirus is disbursed, ministers from the Bureau countries should hold such teleconferences so that they can share strategies.

“President Kagame is the one who brought in President Macron into the teleconference and the African leaders raised the issue that the French president should take their concerns to G20 member states. The G20 countries have not been activating some of the recommendations that they have previously made such as on climate change and other matters.”

The Heads of State, he added, also considered trading Covid-19 fighting equipment amongst each other.

“President Kenyatta suggested that African countries should buy from each other and enhance trade of such equipment even during the lockdowns that many countries have imposed.” 

In a communique released yesterday, the AU said the Heads of State reaffirmed the call for lifting sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe during the meeting.

“The Heads of State and Government strongly urged for the immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan to allow them to adequately respond to the pandemic and save lives. The African Union has repeatedly called for the lifting of these punitive sanctions, which the Bureau consider intolerable and inhumane in the present context,” said the AU.

During the deliberations, the Heads of State resolved to establish inter-ministerial committees to enhance coordination in response to Covid-19.

The AU said: “It was agreed to establish continental ministerial coordination committees on health, finance and transport to coordinate in order to support the comprehensive continental strategy.

“The Heads of State underscored the need for a comprehensive and coordinated continental approach, and to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities.”

Currently, Zimbabwe is not receiving any financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank owing to legacy obligations to the latter.

During the teleconference, the Heads of State agreed that international financial institutions needed to review their funding policies, while also advocating for a special fund for African nations to fight the pandemic.

“Cognisant of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries, the Bureau reiterated the need for rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20 and other international partners, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is critical that these institutions review their current disbursement policies to display flexibility and speed, including raising the availability of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). 

“The Bureau also echoed the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred payments, the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt in order to create fiscal space for Covid-19 response measures.”

The Heads of State rallied for new strategies to fight the pandemic, including ramping up capacities of individual countries to produce medicinal equipment, said the AU.

“The Heads of State highlighted the unprecedented threat that Covid-19 presents to the health of African citizens and to the continent’s hard-won developmental and economic gains. They also recognised the imperative to establish humanitarian and trade corridors in a spirit of African solidarity and integration.

“Given the urgent need for medical supplies and equipment, the Heads of State called for international cooperation and support while up-scaling local production on the continent.”

Member countries were also encouraged to provide US$12,5 million each to help the continent in fighting Covid-19 as a united front.

The Heads of State also reportedly noted progress made in operationalising the African Union Covid-19 Response Fund established on March 26 2020 to which members pledged US$12,5 million and an additional US$4,5 million to Africa’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

On his official Twitter account, President Kagame said the meeting was highly fruitful.

“We discussed the need for Africa to stand together, speak with one voice and work through our institutions to mobilise resources and harmonise the support from international partners. Thank you to initiatives by African institutions such as @AfDBGroup and @afreximbank for their support.

“The meeting stressed the urgency and need to materialise all commitments swiftly and flexibly. Through coordinated action, we can succeed in mitigating the health and economic impact of #Covid-19 on our population.”

President Kagame also bemoaned the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the world.

“The loss of and damage to life and economy globally and particularly in Africa is colossal … and so must be the amounts of energy and financial package(s) to bring things back to normal and beyond.”

The leaders took note of the rapid action coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation in mobilising over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks and 600 000 personal protective equipment (PPE) items to all AU member states in less than a week. 

Zimbabwe has since received its allocation of 20 000 laboratory diagnostic test kits, 100 000 medical face masks and 10 000 protective suits from the donation.

During the meeting, presentations were given by the WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who emphasised the importance of equitable access to tests. Africa’s CDC director, Dr John Nkengasong, updated leaders on the continent’s rapidly increasing Covid-19 infection rates. Sunday Mail


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