President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered an address on the first day of the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Tuesday 22 September that called for members of the global organisation to unite in a bid to assist Africa to rebuild itself after the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his role as chair of the African Union (AU) and as President of South Africa, Ramaphosa urged global institutions to lift economic pressures on the ailing continent and come together to provide stimulus packages that would set Africa back on its aspirational path.
Ramaphosa calls for financial stimulus
Ramaphosa said that we are currently living in “one of the darkest time in human history”, but said that for all its devastating consequences, the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted many pre-existing problems that he hopes can now be collectively addressed.
“Our response to the pandemic has been swift and effective,” he said. “We have a continental strategy to fight the pandemic, which is being driven by the regional economic communities. The AU has established a COVID-19 response fund and a groundbreaking African medical supplies platform.”
“Nonetheless, it will inadvertently set back our developmental aspirations. Redirecting resources has set back our efforts to provide housing, healthcare, water and sanitation, and education to our people.”
He then called for the support of the UN to provide stimulus to the ailing countries.
“We call on the international community and our international partners to support the rollout of a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries,” he said. “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.”
Debt relief urgently required to mitigate impact of COVID-19
Ramaphosa said that in order for African countries to claw their way out of financial desolation, certain restrictions need to be removed.
“To ensure that no country is left behind, we reiterate our position as the AU that economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan should be lifted to allow their governments to respond adequately to the pandemic,” he said.
“We also call for the suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external and public debt. As the AU we are encouraged by the collaboration of the G20, the IMF, and the World Bank towards finding solutions to debt sustainability in developing countries.”
He said that ending poverty and alleviating the sustainability crisis of African countries is a foremost priority that desperately requires united support.
“Until we eradicate poverty, we will always fall short of realising the vision of the founders of the United Nations,” he said.
Ramaphosa calls for eradication of GBV, racism
Ramaphosa addressed issues relating to corruption, racism, gender based violence (GBV), as well as the continued concerns over human rights infringements in the Middle East and beyond.
“We must expand economic opportunities to all people around the world, but especially to the young, to women and the vulnerable,” he said. “We must boldly explore avenues of redistribution and redress as a means of advancing shared prosperity.”
He called for “an end to the illegal occupation of Western Sahara and for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination”, as well as for the lifting of the economic embargo and blockade of Cuba.
He added that there is “no choice but to work together to address the climate change crisis”.
“As we rebuild in the aftermath of this pandemic we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient developmental path,” he said.
“We must advance the principles of the green and circular economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and economic growth.”
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