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Africa and France join forces to fight virus

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Extended board meeting of the African Union has discussed how the continent can effectively fight the pandemic

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa and French President Emmanuel Macron have discussed a multilateral action plan to assist Africa in curbing the spread of Covid-19.

A draft was introduced to other African leaders at the African Union (AU) board meeting, at which the meeting was expanded to include Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Zimbabwe and the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general. 

Addressing journalists in Tshwane this week, French Ambassador to South Africa Aurélien Lechevallier said the discussion between Macron and Ramaphosa followed the G20 Extraordinary Summit by VTC on March 26, which had discussed the need for the multilateral response for Africa.

Ramaphosa and Macron discussed a potential Africa-led strategy, and Macron was invited to attend the AU meeting at which the plan was introduced to African leaders, who welcomed the contributions. Lechevallier said the fact that the French president had been part of the AU meeting was an “exceptional situation”. 

The first pillar of the plan is to improve the health care capacity of African countries, and promote resources for Africa’s health systems. It is hoped that the Global Fund will be part of the programme. 

The second pillar is to ensure massive economic stimulus packages from the regional development banks as well as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in terms of loans and concessional guarantees. The architects of the plan will push for a waiver on interest payments. 

The third pillar is a humanitarian response whereby the UN and World Food Programme will take the lead in providing food and logistical supplies. 

The fourth pillar is to have a Scientific Co-ordination Mechanism with the WHO which allocates tests and treatments, and scientists to share information on the availability of tests.

It was agreed at the AU Board meeting that AU finance and health ministers would discuss the plan in detail and an AU Summit might be organised on the Covid-19 crisis. 

Lechevallier hailed Ramaphosa and Macron’s leadership in taking the initiative, given that Africa is weeks behind what France, Italy and Spain have been experiencing.