As Africa braces itself for the peak in COVID-19 cases, the continent is launching the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, an innovative marketplace to enable all African governments to access critical supplies, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday.
According to President Ramaphosa, Africa has over 250 000 confirmed infections and about 6 700 deaths.
"Although the number of infections in Africa is currently lower than elsewhere in the world, there is an expectation that the worst is still to come, with dire social and economic consequences," he said.
As it stands, Africa is in dire need of medical supplies, testing equipment and facilities to isolate and quarantine people, laboratories, personal protection equipment and ventilators, the President told delegates.
While the continent is scrambling to get supplies, many African countries buy goods with resources largely obtained from multilateral agencies, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted.
President Ramaphosa was speaking in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) during a virtual Extraordinary China-Africa Solidarity Summit against COVID-19, co-hosted by the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the AU.
The Summit is aimed at exploring opportunities for African States to leverage multilateral cooperation, through the FOCAC mechanism, so that resources and knowledge can be mobilised in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
FOCAC is an official forum that coordinates cooperation between the People's Republic of China and African States.
The President has also asked China to consider offering a helping hand by providing diagnostic and therapeutic supplies for over six months.
"This support would be managed by AfriExImBan, in collaboration with its counterpart in China. This would allow several African countries to procure goods from China," he said.
The AU has also established an African COVID-19 Response Fund as a key intervention to mobilise and direct resources towards the continent's response to the challenge.
"The economic global economic downturn has dealt a severe blow to the African continent, as it has the rest of the world," President Ramaphosa acknowledged.
He said the AU has been at the forefront of mobilising international support for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa.
African leaders have also called for debt relief for indebted African countries, including a two-year debt standstill and a plan for the restructuring of both private and bilateral debt.
"To provide additional liquidity to shore up the private sector, Africa has called for the international community to avail some unused Special Drawing Rights of about $100 billion for Africa," said the President.
He has also urged China to support and contribute to this call, or to propose other alternatives to be considered on an urgent basis to help support the private sector.
"Although the COVID-19 pandemic will pass, its consequences for people, economies and our planet will be with us for a long time to come."
The President said it was imperative to embark on a strategic effort to rebuild social and economic systems and restore the confidence of citizens.
"This will require solidarity and a clear vision of the future for developing countries."
He said Sino-Africa solidarity and better multilateral cooperation is key to winning the battle against this pandemic.
"Through this and other platforms, let us continue to strengthen the bonds of solidarity that exist among us and take collective action to secure the future of humanity."
The President has also expressed gratitude on behalf of Africans to China's President Xi Jinping, and the government and his people for their generous donation of personal protective equipment and other medical assistance that has been provided to our continent.
"I wish to thank President Xi for the fruitful discussions we have had during the course of this pandemic and his willingness to engage on the issues that African countries face."
He said the pandemic is not only a threat to health but has a profound bearing on many other areas of global activity, including trade, debt, financial flows, security, migration and action to deal with climate change.
"Humanity is facing a grave and uncertain crisis, as it confronts a virus, which by its nature knows no geographic boundaries and recognises no national sovereignty."
He has also called for solidarity, global cooperation and collaboration.
"We need to strengthen the multilateral system and support the international institutions that must guide our response to this crisis."