President Cyril Ramaphosa says the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Africa has exposed how far the continent still has to go before achieving its aspirations of a united and prosperous region.
Ramaphosa, speaking in his capacity as African Union chairperson, addressed Africa Day celebrations, held via virtual platforms across parts of the continent.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic would have a lasting impact on the AU’s ability to pursue its Agenda 2063, which spoke to African leaders’ vision for the continent’s future.
The continent marked its 54 th Africa Day on Monday. It did so against the backdrop of 107 747 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3 257 deaths.
At least 49 924 recoveries have been recorded.
Ramaphosa, reflecting on the history of the AU, which was called the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) when it was established in 1963, said its mission was to restore the continent’s fortunes and dignity to its people following the damage cause by colonial oppression.
“We are reminded of the difficulties they had to overcome and the resistance they encountered from foreign powers that had much to gain from exploiting divisions on the continent. Yet they taught us the power of perseverance and sacrifice, of dedication to an ideal, and that an Africa united can overcome even the greatest of challenges.”
Through the pandemic, a new Africa, rooted in solidarity, cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge needed to emerge, Ramaphosa said.
“The challenge of this pandemic has shown how Africa is able to work together to solve its own problems. Day by day, across our continent, we are seeing the unity that is our strength being put to the service of saving lives and supporting the vulnerable.”
Ramaphosa said the continent needed to push ahead with meeting the aspirations of Agenda 2063, including pan-African integration, the creation of the African continental free trade area, along with Africa’s vision for security, peace, stable democracies, human rights and women’s empowerment.
“We must not, under any circumstances, allow this global health emergency to derail our efforts to silence the guns on the continent. The tragic conflicts that are breeding instability in a number of countries on our continent are exacting a heavy toll on human life and must end,” he said.
While once again using his role as AU chair to call for international solidarity, Ramaphosa thanked those, on both the continent and in the broader international community, who had sought to assist the continental body in navigating the global pandemic.
Ramaphosa also lauded healthcare workers, medical personnel, scientists and epidemiologists across the continent for leading efforts against Covid-19.
He also gave a special mention to World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.
“We thank our brother, doctor, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, for demonstrating strong and foresightful leadership to the world during this crisis.”