South African President calls for debt cancellations for poor African countries to aid coronavirus fight

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the opening of the 33rd African Union (AU) summit of heads of state and government at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020. (Photo by Michael Tewelde/Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday called for lifting the waiver of interest payments and possible cancellation of debt for Africa’s low-income countries to aid coronavirus fight.

“We argued for a waiver of all interest payments on multilateral and bilateral debt. This would provide the necessary fiscal space for African governments to devote all available resources to response and recovery,” he said during a virtual meeting with heads of state from South Africa’s neighboring countries.

“In general, the response from the international community has been positive with various partners making pledges, offering debt relief measures and providing concrete support in the form of medical supplies,” said the president.

He said, with the coronavirus cases set to rise throughout the continent, millions of dollars have been raised in tackling the virus in Africa.

“To date, we have managed to raise 25 million U.S. dollars for the Response Fund and an additional 36.5 million U.S. dollars to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.”

He said five African Union (AU) COVID-19 envoys have been appointed to organize funds as part of the AU’s economic intervention plan.

He said one of the biggest challenges the continent faces is access to personal protection equipment.

“As the AU Bureau, we met with several of Africa’s business leaders to seek their assistance in ramping up local production of these items and sourcing them from other parts of the world,” said the president, who appointed Zimbabwean business person Strive Masiyiwa to help organizing these equipment for the region and the rest of the continent.

Ramaphosa said he also engaged with the leaders of various countries, such as Cuba, China, Russia, France, Canada and the United States to ask for support for the continent. Enditem

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