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President Cyril Ramaphosa: World Bank High-Level Event on Human Capital during Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic

15 Oct 2020

Leadership of the World Bank Group,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The coronavirus pandemic is having a deep and profound impact on the world. 

It has devastated livelihoods and economies, and set back our ability to meet the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

For countries with low levels of development, the situation is particularly dire.

As the African continent, our response to the pandemic has been strategic and collaborative. 

Our strategy in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has been based on four pillars.

The first has been in developing a continental response to the virus.

This has been led by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which, in collaboration with the WHO, has advised African countries on various disease control measures and protocols.

The second has been in raising resources through the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund. 

The third pillar has been in setting up a continental platform for the acquisition and distribution of diagnostic and therapeutic supplies to countries in need through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform.

The fourth pillar has been the appointment of special envoys to engage with the international community to mobilise the financial support that African countries need, firstly, to ensure an effective public health response to the pandemic, and, secondly, to enable their economies to recover.

As a country, South Africa response has sought to save lives and protect livelihoods.

While we acted swiftly to implement a nation-wide lockdown – which delayed the surge in infections – we also put in place significant economic and social relief measures to protect businesses, workers and households.

We introduced measures to support the poorest households and small businesses.

Nevertheless, the financial fallout of the pandemic will be severe – not just for South Africa but for the entire continent.

Countries will struggle to meet their obligations to their people, with critical resources having been diverted to fighting the pandemic.

We are continuing to call for a comprehensive economic stimulus to assist African countries to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. 

We are encouraged by moves by the international financial institutions to provide relief to indebted countries, and reiterate our call for a moratorium on interest and debt repayments by stricken countries.

This will afford African countries the fiscal space we sorely need to rebuild our societies and our economies. 

For every African man, woman and child to realise their full potential, we have to continue to invest in poverty eradication, in education and in improving health outcomes. 

The pandemic has once again brought to the fore the importance and necessity of universal health coverage.

We have to turn this period of crisis into one of opportunity to build resilient economies.

We have to support the development of small businesses. 

We have to take advantage of the dramatic changes the pandemic has brought to the world of work by equipping our people with the necessary tools and skills to take up occupations in a technology-driven economy.

We want to attract higher levels of investment in our natural resources sector, in renewable energies and in agriculture.

It is our intention to increase and not decrease social spending to narrow the deep inequalities that exist in our respective countries.

It is only through solidarity that we will be best able to seize the opportunity presented by this pandemic to bring greater economic security to the people of Africa, to revitalise the continent’s economies and to deliver equal opportunity for all.

I thank you.

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