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Ramaphosa appoints AU special envoys for Africa’s fight against COVID-19

They will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union, and other international financial institutions.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 9 February 2020 during his acceptance statement on assuming the chair of the AU for 2020. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as the chairperson of the African Union (AU) has appointed special envoys to mobilise international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

There were concerns about the continent’s testing capacity due to limited test kits and other tools to fight the virus. Africa has over 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Ramaphosa appointed Nigeria’s former finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former president of the African Development Bank Dr Donald Kaberuka, French-Ivorian businessman and banker Tidjane Thiam, and SA’s former finance minister Trevor Manuel as part of the special envoys.

They will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union, and other international financial institutions.

Ramaphosa said in the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African countries, there was a need for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment,” Ramaphosa said in a statement on Sunday.

“The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community,” he added.

The president said the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of getting economic support to allow the continent to respond swiftly to the effects to fight the pandemic.

Ramaphosa said the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.

“The African Union is immensely encouraged by the support that has been extended by the international community thus far. It is an affirmation that as nations of the world, we are all in this together. We must now focus on efforts to marshal every resource at our disposal to ensure that this pandemic is contained, and does not result in the collapse of already ailing economies and financial systems on the continent,” he said.

PROFILE OF SPECIAL ENVOYS

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Nigeria’s minister of finance. She has also served as managing director of the World Bank.

Dr Donald Kaberuka is an economist and former president and chairman of the board of directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former finance minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a special envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for peace in Africa.

Tidjane Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former chief executive officer of Credit Suisse and also served as chief financial officer and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.

Trevor Manuel was the longest-serving minister of finance in SA and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an Investment Envoy by Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.