President Cyril Ramaphosa pleaded with richer countries, on Tuesday, to release their excess Covid-19 vaccines to countries that have yet to receive doses, voicing his concern about “vaccine nationalism”.
Virtually addressing the World Economic Forum, he noted that richer countries have acquired doses of up to four times their population, as many poorer countries battle to begin their vaccination programmes.
He accused richer countries of hoarding vaccines to the exclusion of countries that most needed it.
“Rich countries in the world are holding onto these vaccines and we are saying release the excess vaccines that you have ordered and hoarded. There is no need for a country, which perhaps has about 40-million people and acquires 120-million doses or 160-million and yet the world needs access to those vaccines,” Ramaphosa stated.
He warned that vaccinating only some countries would not eliminate Covid-19, stating that all countries had to be vaccinated.
He applauded the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility for ensuring that acquisition processes are agglomerated for equitable vaccine distribution and, while lauding the marginal success of Africa’s acquisition task team, he reminded richer countries that vaccines needed to be available to all.
“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not. We all must act together in combatting coronavirus because it affects all of us equally and, therefore, our remedies and actions to combat it must be equal and overarching for all of us and not be something that special countries or certain countries have on their own to the exclusion of others,” Ramaphosa stated.
South Africa has, so far, recorded about 1.4-million Covid-19 cases, with 40 000 deaths.
Ramaphosa said, coupled with a decade-long weak economic growth, the current economic downturn had hampered South Africa’s economic recovery path.
He detailed some of government’s relief measures that had limited the impact of the pandemic on the economy and on South Africans and also highlighted the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which aimed to boost confidence, restart the economy and boost growth and employment.
The plan’s focus areas include an infrastructure build programme for social and economic infrastructure; the expansion of energy generation capacity, with the inclusion of renewable energy, battery storage and gas technologies, as well as the restructuring of Eskom; job creation; and export-oriented industrial development.
Ramaphosa noted that the country had, over the last three years, accrued R774-billion in investment commitments.
“Around one-fifth of the committed value has already been invested in projects for construction and essential equipment for mining, manufacturing, telecommunications and agriculture. These interventions will enable South Africa to better realise the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which became operational on 1 January 2021,” he said.
South Africa will benefit from greater exports to the continent, which, in turn, will boost domestic sectors such as steel, automotive production, mining and manufactured products.
Ramaphosa said South Africa would urgently pursue interventions, but admitted that, as the country battles the second wave of the virus, the road ahead will be difficult.
He called for a united front in defeating the virus and for the forging of a new path and design for the world.
“While we must unite in defeating this disease, the challenges we must confront were not created by the virus. They were created by us. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these problems, deepened these inequalities and set back our efforts to overcome them. Our task is therefore not to restore the world to where it was when this pandemic struck, but to forge a new path and a new design towards a world that is just, peaceful, cohesive, resilient and sustainable. It is only through multilateral action that the world can solve its challenges,” Ramaphosa stated.