Africa Day: UN Chief reaffirms solidarity with continent

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has reiterated his support for Africa in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in his Africa Day message.

Africa is the least affected continent by COVID-19 so far.

It has registered sharp increases in cases over the last few weeks. The continent has so far reported over 107,000 cases and over 3,200 deaths as of May 24, figures lower than had been feared.

“On Africa Day, I reaffirm my total solidarity with the people of Africa in fighting coronavirus and paving the way for recovery and a better future for all,” Guterres tweeted.

Guterres also praised African countries for their response to the pandemic saying the continent responded “swiftly and decisively”.

“Most have moved rapidly to deepen regional coordination, deploy health workers, and enforce quarantines, lockdowns and border closures. They are also drawing on the experience of HIV/AIDS and Ebola to debunk rumours and overcome mistrust of government, security forces and health workers,” he said.

South Africa has drawn particular praise for its response after it implemented one of the fastest and strictest responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It closed its borders and imposed a lockdown before it announced its first death from COVID-19.

It also developed COVID-19 testing capacity early on and assisted other countries in the continent, such as Kenya, to test for cases.

The continent’s economies have slumped in the wake of tight restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the virus.

Several governments have come under pressure from citizens to ease the restrictions and open up the economies despite there being little evidence that the virus is behind them.

The implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA), set for July 1, has also been postponed due to disruptions occasioned by COVID-19.

“We are calling for international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.”

“I also continue to advocate a comprehensive debt framework — starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.”

He added that African countries should get “quick, equal and affordable” access to any vaccine and treatment of COVID-19 once it becomes available.

Guterres said that it was important for the rest of the world to show its solidarity with Africa now and post-COVID19.

“Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world.”