BRAZIL AFRICA FORUM 2020
Pretoria, 03 November 2020
Excellencies, Panellists and the Diplomatic Corps;
Representatives of International Organisations;
Friends and Partners;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the president of the Republic of South Africa and Chair of the African Union (AU), Cyril Ramaphosa, let me thank you most sincerely for this opportunity to address 2020 Brazil Africa Forum. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic presents an era-defining challenge to public health and the global economy. Compounded by a changing international landscape, its political and socio-economic consequences, both short and long-term, have dire implications for the developing world.
COVID-19 is a health crisis with a severe socio-economic impact on all countries, especially the developing world. It has set back progress that had been made on poverty eradication and other human development indicators. It has the potential to delay the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The pandemic has decimated domestic resources and reduced fiscal and economic space. As the pandemic has affected all countries, the flows of both development assistance and private capital stand to be affected and to constrict much need investments for development.
The impact of COVID-19 is expected to see an economic contraction of 3.2% in the sub-Saharan Africa region in 2020, reducing per capita GDP to levels last seen in 2010. For the first time in decades extreme poverty will increase. Indeed we have already seen that 26-39 million Africans have been pushed into extreme poverty in just the last 6 months alone- raising poverty by between 6 and 9%.
For the African continent this disconcerting economic scenario is exacerbating the perennial challenge of the ongoing violent conflict for which the AU has adopted a resolution expressing the intent to silence the guns by 2020.
We believe, as South Africa, that international cooperation and coordination in responding to the pandemic is essential. The current interconnected international challenges are a powerful reminder of the imperative to strengthen cooperation between States, to address the challenges through reinvigorated diplomacy and a strengthened multilateral system. South Africa affirms its full support for the World Health Organization, which has been key in guiding the international response to the pandemic.
To turn back the frontiers of the pandemic, we also need to deepen international collaboration around research and development and investment in essential medical technologies, in COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics and in vaccines. South Africa supports a Science, Technology and Innovation response to СOVID-19 and believes that there are several opportunities for collaboration regarding data exchanges and monitoring, therapy drugs research, diagnostics and social sciences. In this regard, African nations are only too keen to learn from Brazil’s vaccine development institutes and vaccine production plans in the fight against COVID-19 in Brazil and the Latin American region.
In BRICS, our Health Ministers have committed themselves to strengthen efforts to promote access to affordable, quality medicines and to make diagnostic tools available, including through enhanced research and developing innovative approaches and mutual recognition systems of quality standards and verification of vaccines within BRICS countries.
We fully support the initiative by the WHO together with many governments, non-profit organisations and industry leaders to speed up the development and production of vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure that they are distributed quickly and equitably across the globe. South Africa cautions against vaccine nationalism. When discovered, South Africa calls for such vaccines to be made global public goods, accessible to all countries that require them on an equitable and affordable basis. For its part, South Africa is participating in several research initiatives with continental and international partners including the global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. We also believe that the current experience provides ample justification for the need to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre, as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration.
South Africa, like other countries, sees the pandemic as presenting an opportunity to focus on a green economic recovery. The world cannot return to an “old normal” trajectory of economic growth. Our partners in BRICS and IBSA are critical to South Africa’s post-COVID economic recovery strategy, especially through trade, investment, and tourism cooperation. The BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy is currently being renewed for a further five-year period. The existing focus in BRICS on partnership to strengthen cooperation in response to the New Industrial Revolution also holds many opportunities.
The New Development Bank (NDB) of BRICS is actively contributing to the ongoing efforts of BRICS countries to address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including by way of an Emergency Assistance Facility of up to US$10 billion, as well as the approval of loans to the BRICS states of US$4 billion, including an Emergency Assistance Programme of $1billion.
The AU has made a call for developing countries to be assisted in their efforts to combat the pandemic and to rebuild their economies. This assistance needs to include debt relief, more Special Drawing Rights Allocations with the international financial institutions, and the provision of comprehensive and robust stimulus packages for vulnerable countries.
We count on Brazil to support the Continental COVID-19 Strategy that was launched by President Ramaphosa as AU Chair on 18 June 2020, and to assist in addressing Africa’s need for medical supplies, testing kits, and Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) for our health workers, as well as for agricultural products to feed our people, who are unable to provide a living due to the national lockdowns that have been implemented across the Continent.
We will continue to engage with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, and regional Multilateral Development Banks to further secure COVID-19 economic stimulus packages and a debt standstill for Africa. We support the call by the AU for a debt standstill of up to 4 years. We look forward to working with our partners, including in BRICS and IBSA, in securing Africa’s economic recovery package post COVID-19 and in supporting the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Africa also looks to Brazil’s support for the excellent work of the AU COVID-19 Special Envoys in negotiating economic relief measures, including debt relief for African countries.
We are grateful for the support and solidarity of IBSA members, among others, within the G20 in addressing the health, social and economic implications of COVID-19. As fellow developing countries, the untold impact of the pandemic is placing a disproportionate burden on our collective health and economic capacity.
I wish to echo the call by the United Nations Secretary-General during the IMF/World Bank High-level Meeting on Mobilising with Africa, that these measures can only be a start and that “the severity of the crisis demands more, as many other developing countries are highly vulnerable and already in debt distress – or will become distressed with the global recession.
IBSA countries have started to talk about and are looking to address the post-pandemic phase in a holistic manner. This entails not only recovery therapies and treatment that focus on the physical wellbeing of individuals, but also on an approach that looks at a wellness index. The wellness index incorporates both mental and physical therapies and treatment to ensure a balanced approach to recovery strategies. Previously, we had spoken about a human development index and a happiness index. However, following the onset of the pandemic, there is now a need to also look at a wellness index. This would entail a combination of homeopathy, yoga, ayurveda and indigenous knowledge systems.
South Africa is wedded to the conviction that multilateral approach is of utmost necessity given the intractable nature of global pandemics in general, as well as the complex array of challenges that emerge from such a pervasive global phenomenon.
This pandemic requires an awareness of how deeply interconnected our world is and how solidarity and cooperation are becoming more and more indispensable. There is a need for international cooperation to manage the fallout of the pandemic on Africa (more than 30 000 deaths and 1, 5 million infections) in the light of how it has over-stretched the limits of the Continent’s already weak public health systems.
On a broader level inter-continental level, let us also remember that Nigeria and Brazil are the current coordinators of the Africa South America Partnership Forum.
The Africa – South America Partnership has the potential to help leverage the various development instruments on the African continent, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, the African Union Plan of Action for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa, the Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme and the African Continental Free Trade Area, at the government, business and civil society levels.
In this regard, tangible benefits could be realized if Brazilian state entities such as EMBRAPA, SENAI, CNI, ABC and APEX-Brazil were to become involved.
The African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to take effect in January 2021. As we emerge from the effects of the pandemic the African continent will leverage the FTA to stimulate the economies on the continent. The FTA will afford the companies in BRICS countries, including Brazil and South America generally, exciting opportunities to expand their businesses in African countries, both in manufacturing and in services.
In conclusion, programme director, humanity is facing an unprecedented crisis of our time due to COVID-19. This calls for global solidarity and coordinated response to ensure timely, affordable and equitable access to the vaccine and requisite technologies for all. The right to health is a universal human right, just as the burden of disease is shared by all humanity. In the age of globalization, progress made/ lack thereof in public health in one country has an impact on the international community as a whole. Consequently, there is a compelling case for effective international cooperation in relation to COVID-19. We are therefore pleased that there appears to be consensus on the need for universal, fair and equitable access to potential COVID-19 vaccines in what has been termed “a global public good”.
Let us also bear in mind that this pandemic has nevertheless also provided a rare opportunity to ‘reimagine’ the Continent in the post-COVID-19 era. For example, COVID-19 has forced Africa to derive new ways of addressing challenges related to peace and security, socio-economic under-development and poverty.
I thank you very much and look forward to the concrete outcomes of this strategic partnership between Brazil and the continent of Africa as we unlock future possibilities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.