By Harrison Arubu
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa on Tuesday solicited a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa to enable its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa made the appeal in his pre-recorded video statement to the virtual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union (AU), he also called for suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external and public debts.
The South African president said although the continent had responded “swiftly and effectively” to the pandemic, it would “inevitably set back our developmental aspirations”.
He said: “The resources we have had to redirect to fighting the pandemic has set back our efforts to provide housing, health care, water and sanitation and education to our people.
“When the Secretary-General António Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in July, 2020, he called on the nations of the world to forge a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal.
“He said we must create equal opportunities for all, that we must advance a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, that debt architecture must be reformed, and that there should be greater access to affordable credit for developing countries.
“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.”
He, however, acknowledged joint efforts by the G20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the UN to address debt sustainability in developing countries.
He noted that pandemic had underscored the urgency with which the world strive to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ramaphosa reiterated the AU’s call for the lifting of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan to enable their governments to adequately respond to the pandemic.
According to him, relieving both countries of sanctions will also ensure no one is left behind as the world races against time to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
Zeroing in on SDG 1, poverty education, the AU chairman noted that the purpose of the UN would remain a mirage until global poverty was eradicated.
He called for expansion of economic opportunities to all our people, especially young people, women and the vulnerable.
Ramaphosa further urged decisive action to rid the continent of corruption, which he said is “robbing our people of the opportunities and services that are their right”.