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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Time for a new, people-centred economy

It is time for leaders to establish a new economic model, which puts people at its centre, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Covid-19 has increased the need for the world to adopt a new moral economy as the world leaders are facing a common enemy.

African leaders have established continental funds, issued stimulus packages, and set up task forces to fight the scourge, while at the same time the economically stronger countries, despite also grappling with the virus in their own backyards, agreed to come to Africa’s aid to deal with the disease.

This is reflected by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his latest weekly newsletter published on Monday.

He said the global pandemic had exposed the fragility of inward-looking and insular political, economic, and social systems. This was leading some to call for “a new moral economy” that has people and their welfare at its centre.

“It has opened up space for critical action around social spending and equitable access to health care. It is challenging widely-held preconceptions about the abilities of developing countries to respond to national emergencies.

According to Ramaphosa, South Africa was getting practical support from the United States, China, Cuba and Russia.

“Even as these countries struggle to contain the pandemic themselves, they are willing to support South Africa and Africa’s response,” he said.

African countries were also collaborating to fight the spread of Covid-19.

The African Union established an African Union Covid-19 Response Fund to which the AU Bureau members pledged $12.5 million. The Africa CDC (Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which is driving the continental health response, would increase its funding with an additional $4.5 million.

A number of measures have been proposed by the AU Bureau, including a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa. The World Bank and International Monetary Funds have been urged to consider interest payment waivers and deferred payments for economically distressed African countries.

“This would free up much-needed financial resources now that national budgets are being reprioritised to support the coronavirus response,” Ramaphosa said.

The president, who is chair of the AU, announced that regional coronavirus task forces would be set up in each of Africa’s five regions – Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Northern Africa. The forces would oversee screening, detection and diagnosis; infection prevention and control; clinical management of infected persons; and communication and community engagement.

“The task forces will put this experience to good effect as we confront the current health emergency,” he said.

Africa was facing a severe shortage of coronavirus test kits, medicines, face masks and other personal protection equipment. In conjunction with the World Health Organisation, the countries planned to seek assistance from various world leaders for supplies to augment local productions in the continent.

Ramaphosa was confident in Africa’s ability at controlling infectious disease and praised the work of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as “world-class”. The continent’s health professionals, with international support, would be able to bolster Africa’s health infrastructure and health systems.

“At the same time, African countries will help each other. If we continue in this positive vein, Africa will truly demonstrate it is more than capable of resolving its challenges,” Ramaphosa said.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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