South Africa calls for end to Zimbabwe sanctions to help fight Covid-19

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa has again called for the economic bans against Zimbabwe and Sudan to be lifted as the continent grapples with Covid-19 and its economic impact.

The US implemented sanctions against Sudan after accusing the country of harbouring terrorists, which the Sudanese government has denied. The US also extended sanctions against Zimbabwe during former president Barack Obama’s term due to the country’s political instability.

In his capacity as African Union (AU) chairperson, Ramaphosa held a virtual meeting with the AU Bureau and captains of industry on the continent.

The meeting was held to seek assistance from the business community as part of the AU’s strategy to combat the virus and manage its economic impact.

African economies are expected to be the hardest hit by lockdown regulations which in turn will affect businesses and trade.

In a report, the AU predicts the continent will be strangled by the pandemic, with nearly 20 million jobs, both in the formal and informal sectors, threatened if the crisis continues.

“The deep global recession that is likely to follow the pandemic will hit Africa particularly hard. Export orders in markets like Asia and Europe will rapidly decline, while key commodity prices will face pressures that will exceed those seen after the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

“Trade distortions are likely to disrupt the smooth functioning of logistics networks, while increasing volatility in currency markets and spikes in non-payment by clients may lead to a period of prolonged economic instability that will threaten the viability of many companies,” Ramaphosa told business leaders.

He added the economic crisis would require similar co-operation to that of the health crisis.

On Tuesday night, Ramaphosa announced a R500 billion social and economic support package to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This equates to 10% of the country’s GDP.

He said some of this money would be funded externally and by international organizations, including the World Bank, Brics Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In his meeting with African leaders on Wednesday, Ramaphosa added the AU Bureau agreed to the establishment of an African Covid-19  fund which member states had contributed $12.5 million to as seed funding

The bureau also agreed on the need for G20 countries to provide a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa.

“This would need to include deferred payments and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt to create fiscal space for Covid-19 response measures.

“Given the urgent need for medical supplies and equipment, we called for international co-operation and support while increasing local production on the continent,” Ramaphosa said.

Cautioning the pandemic did not respect borders, he called on the continent’s private sector to combine resources with the AU to implement a screening, testing and contact tracing programme.

Ramaphosa said a shift in the manufacturing infrastructure towards the production of essential medical goods was needed with a collaboration in assuring the resilience of existing supply chains for essential products like food and pharmaceuticals.

“While many of you are already active in assisting in efforts to fight the pandemic in your own countries, we must realise that only a continental intervention can provide a lasting solution.”

Zimbabwe has already been reported to have a collapsed healthcare sector. Last year, it faced one of its biggest health crisis when doctors and nurses embarked on a four-month strike over wages. – News24