Coronavirus has had an impact on almost every aspect of life, in every corner of the globe.
For the first time in generations, all of us around the world are engaged in the same fight: tackling this deadly disease. Across Africa and in the UK, health workers on the front line are saving lives, while others are doing their part by keeping essential services and supplies running or simply by staying at home to slow the disease’s spread.
For individual governments, the challenges are huge. But this is a global disease and we can overcome those challenges together with a global response. For example, developing and distributing new vaccines and treatments is not something one country can do alone. Nor will stamping out the disease at home be effective if the virus takes hold in other parts of the world, resulting in new waves of infection worldwide.
That’s why the UK stands with Africa as we fight this threat together. The African Union, and its public health agency, Africa CDC, are at the forefront of the continental response, providing strong African-led leadership and technical advice from which we all stand to benefit. I am proud the UK is now the largest international donor to the African Union Covid-19 Response Fund, following an appeal from Cyril Ramaphosa. Contributing close to R450-million (£20-million) this money will save lives across Africa, by making sure its leaders have the resources to respond effectively to the pandemic.
It will help recruit and deploy African health experts to combat harmful misinformation, track the spread of the disease, provide training for response workers and provide guidance, adapted for different countries, to make sure everyone knows how to stay safe.
With tens of thousands of confirmed cases on the continent, and predictions of hundreds of thousands of deaths, we have to take action. As African nations slow the spread of this virus around the continent, this will help end the global pandemic sooner – and benefit us all.
This is why the UK is encouraging other governments to think internationally, and collectively, about their responses to coronavirus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ministers from across the UK government are speaking to their counterparts across the world to secure global agreement on measures which will save lives and protect economies.
We successfully pushed for the suspension of $12-billion worth of debt payments to G20 countries for 77 nations. We were the first country to sign up for the IMF’s crisis fund which will help countries like Mali and Niger weather the economic impact of the crisis, so they can focus on fighting the virus itself. The UK is also using our membership of the G7 and G20 to urge a timely and effective international response to support the world’s most vulnerable countries.
Including the new funding to the African Union, we have now committed up to £764-million ($931.7-million) of UK aid to fight the pandemic worldwide, funding research into vaccines, tests and treatments providing humanitarian and economic support to the most vulnerable countries and improving access to sanitation. As the biggest supporter of the international CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) fund to find a vaccine, and the largest donor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, we are committed to making sure everyone across Africa and the world can benefit from a future vaccine.
We have called on other members of the G20 to reduce tariffs on medical supplies and medicines essential to the coronavirus response and we are working with our trading partners in Africa to make sure supply chains stay open. In doing so, we will help keep Africa and the world open for business and protect livelihoods in the UK and in African nations, which are home to some of our most important business partners and suppliers.
The UK has always recognised Africa’s enormous potential and throughout my career, in which I have served as the UK’s Africa Minister twice and worked in the UK, Botswana and Cote D’Ivoire, I have seen first-hand the importance of our strong ties.
The UK-Africa Investment Summit in January this year laid the foundations for even deeper relationships between us, resulting in billions of dollars of investment deals which will help the global economic recovery from this crisis. The UK’s strategic partnership with the African Union is now in its second year; and even before the pandemic our public health agencies were already working together to guard against the health threats which are a risk to us all.
Never have I been more grateful for the strong links between the UK and Africa. No nation will be able to fight coronavirus alone: we are in this pandemic together and working together we will beat it. DM