COVID-19 as an opportunity for South Africa to unite and create sustainable infrastructure for long-term socio-economic recovery
By Thandi Tobias
For a long time, South Africa has faced struggles ranging from adverse low economic growth, political instability and, many other socio-economic woes. To an extent, this has contributed to the very resilient character of our nation. As a nation, we tend to thrive in adversity. We now have an opportunity to build on that character and take lessons from our interventions on COVID-19, to create long-term solutions that address the very unique challenges that our people face every day.
Our leaders across different sectors have been working tirelessly, towards a more unified response to the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa, here is what our leaders, through various structures and expertise, are expressing and doing to help curb this invisible enemy:
We are stronger together, therefore it is of the utmost priority that we as South Africans and Africans have better humanitarian and trade corridors between countries. While borders are there to protect us, they also divide us. The African Union, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa this year has been working to strengthen our connections with each others..
The AU is putting continental ministerial coordination committees on Health, Finance and Transport in place to unify our continent’s efforts more seamlessly.
As Africans we are getting more aggressive with our medical response. African leaders are rolling out mass-testing efforts to ensure the medical health of all Africans. The AU’s specialised technical team, Africa CDC (Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) is rolling out millions of test kits in a coordinated and cohesive fashion.
The African Union’s Trace, Test & Track initiative, aims to test at least 10 million Africans in the next six months. If everyone participates in their own way, this will help us contain the spread of COVID-19. Ministers, presidents, stakeholders and even you citizens of Africa, must play your part in taking part to ensure that we come out of this global threat, victorious.
We are also working on our continent’s financial health. Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest developing economies, and it is in our best interest to keep it that way. A number of relief measures are available to protect our people, small businesses and our institutions against the devastating impact this will have on our nations and indeed, our people.
Most recently, the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, African leaders, bilateral partners, and multilateral institutions, agreed to a debt standstill beginning May 1, 2020. By suspending debt repayments for the time being, Africa’s struggling economies can focus their resources on a rapid response against COVID-19. Billions of dollars have been secured from international partners and the AU is still in pursuit of further support.
To this end, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, announced the appointment of four special envoys mandated to find additional financial support for Africa. The special envoys will target G20 countries, international organizations and African business communities. All the funds raised will support the AU’s Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak. They are striving for immediate humanitarian and economic relief across Africa.
As Brand South Africa we are asking you to Prepare, Protect and Prosper. While Africa and its leaders are building preventative and responsive measures for its citizens, it is up to all of us to support their efforts by following health and government advisories. The AU is guiding us with #FactsNotFear and it is indeed a fact that we can beat this virus.
We want to remind every citizen to follow social distancing rules carefully, to maintain good hygiene at all times and to contact relevant health authorities in the case of symptoms.
To all leaders in government, business and civil society; ramp up your Prepare and Protect measures with the advised recommendations from the African Union.
Enhance your abilities to detect severe acute respiratory symptoms and infections. Where you are open for business, take all the necessary preventative measures and supply your employees with the necessary tools to help manage the spread of COVID-19. Notify therelevant authorities of all suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
May our continent rest assured in the comfort that our leaders are working behind the scenes, and are doing their best to protect their people so we can recover and prosper together. Remember, we are all leaders in our own rights and therefore, the future of our country and our continent is in our hands.
Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness