As the African continent celebrates Africa Day on Monday amid the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that despite the resource challenges facing the continent, governments have been swift and proactive in implementing measures in the fight against the virus.
Ramaphosa addressed South Africans in his weekly column saying although the pandemic was not an African problem alone, the continent was determined to use its own capabilities and strengths to overcome the pandemic.
Ramaphosa also noted that the African response to the pandemic had received widespread praise.
“As countries around the world battle to turn the tide against the pandemic, Africa has taken firm control of its destiny, by developing a clear strategy and raising financial resources from its member States,” he said.
He remarked that although African countries ranked low on human development indices and were generally less capable of managing the fallout of a global health emergency of this kind on their own, he pointed out that African countries have come together, united by a common purpose.
By early May, 43 African countries had full border closures, 53 had closed schools and universities, 54 had limited public gatherings, 26 had instituted the compulsory use of face masks, 32 had instituted night-time curfews and 18 had imposed nation-wide lockdowns.
With Africa’s experience in combatting HIV and tuberculosis, community health workers were aptly deployed to conduct screenings, testing, contact tracing and case management.
Ramaphosa said that although there had been severe shortcomings and constraints, such as the shortage of personal protective equipment, testing kits and ventilators, there had also been stories of excellence and intercontinental collaboration.
African nations have also joined the race to produce test kits, he said, revealing that Senegal was at an advanced stage of developing a low-cost testing kit.
The African Union (AU) has also developed a comprehensive Joint Continental Strategy to guide cooperation between member States and set up a Covid-19 Response Fund.
“African countries have scaled up their respective capacities for screening, testing and isolating. In April, the AU and the African Centres for Disease Control launched the Partnership to Accelerate Covid-19 Testing to strengthen testing capacity in vulnerable countries, with the aim of testing 10-million people over the next six months. Through this partnership, warehousing and distribution hubs are being set up across the continent to distribute medical supplies. The aim is to pool the procurement of diagnostics and other medical commodities,” Ramaphosa said.
At least 25 African countries have registered clinical trials for possible Covid-19 treatments, including for the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine, hydroxychloroquine, antiretrovirals and Remdesivir, and as part of the global Solidarity clinical trials.
He noted that while African countries still relied on international support, African countries were holding their own.
“This Africa Day we are reminded once again that the solutions to Africa’s problems, be they overcoming disease or eradicating poverty and underdevelopment, reside within Africa itself,” Ramaphosa said.