President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the waiver of interest payments and possible cancellation of debt for Africa’s low-income countries to manage the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Ramaphosa said this during a virtual meeting with heads of state from South Africa’s neighbouring countries.
In April, after he addressed the G20, the world’s largest economies agreed to a nine-month debt standstill for low-income countries, mostly in Africa.
Ramaphosa, however, said he believed in order for the economies of African countries to recover, they would need a debt standstill of two years.
“In other meetings, we have also been saying that there should be consideration of debt cancellations.”
During the meeting, Ramaphosa argued for a waiver of all interest payments on multilateral and bilateral debt. This, he said, would provide the necessary fiscal space for African governments to devote all available resources to response and recovery.
African economies are expected to be the hardest hit by lockdown regulations, which in turn will affect businesses and trade.
The African Union (AU) has predicted the continent will be strangled by the pandemic, with nearly 20 million jobs, both in the formal and informal sectors, threatened if the crisis continues.
Ramaphosa has also argued for a coordinated approach in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) with South Africa’s neighbours.
PPEs have become the world’s hottest commodity with supplies running low for frontline workers such as nurses and doctors. To mitigate against the demand, governments have urged civilians to use cloth masks to allow healthcare workers first dibs.
In South Africa, healthcare workers have raised concerns over PPE shortages.
Nehawu went so far as to take Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to court, challenging the state to make facilities more conducive for frontline workers.
Between provincial health departments, the national department and Solidarity Fund, R755 million have already been spent on PPEs in April.
“As the AU Bureau, we met with several of Africa’s business leaders to seek their assistance in ramping up local production of these items and sourcing them from other parts of the world.
“I have appointed Zimbabwean businessperson Strive Masiyiwa to assist with efforts to source personal protection equipment for the region and the continent,” said Ramaphosa.
The AU had also engaged with the leaders of Cuba, China, Russia, France, Canada and the US to ask for support for the continent, he added.