Wesley Seale lectures at Rhodes University.
Wesley Seale lectures at Rhodes University.

Solidarity is key for us to conquer this invisible but deadly enemy

By Wesley Seale Time of article published Sep 15, 2021

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WHEN calling a friend recently, he greeted me with those regrettable words: Covid has claimed another life.

It is difficult to find someone these days who has not been affected by Covid-19.

At a gathering celebrating Women’s Day, the facilitator did a quick survey by asking the following questions and asking for a show of hands. Who has had Covid-19? Who has lost a family member or friend to Covid-19?

There was no one who had not raised their hands.

As the global community continues to try to deal with the pandemic which has wrought havoc in our lives and communities, BRICS leaders met once again to ensure that the group of nations collectively tackled the challenge of Covid-19 and its effects.

The BRICS group, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, was born out of a need for the international community to work together in strengthening global challenges.

BRIC foreign ministers met for the first time on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2006. Yet they would not take the association, then excluding South Africa, as seriously as they would three years later, in 2009, when having to deal with a broken world economy in the face of the global recession of 2008/9.

BRIC was born out of that brokenness.

Today, BRICS nations must again lead, especially with the rest of their counterparts in the G20, to ensure that the global community responds appropriately to Covid-19 and its after effects.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in particular, has urged BRICS leaders and their countries to ensure that there is international solidarity in fighting Covid-19, to uphold and strengthen multilateralism as well as ensure that economic co-operation underpins the recovery of the global economy.

“Facing these challenges, we, the BRICS countries, must step forward to make an active contribution to world peace and development and advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind,” President Xi is reported to have said.

Professor Somododa Fikeni recently remarked that BRICS countries would contribute significantly to the recovery of the global economy despite the pandemic which casts a cloud over recovery efforts.

BRICS countries represent more than 26% of the Earth’s landmass, 42% of the global population and nearly a quarter of the global gross domestic product.

Yet China has also put its money where its mouth is. President Xi has stepped in to ensure that he and his country leads in these efforts.

China reports that it has provided more than a billion doses of finished and bulk vaccines to more than 100 countries and international organisations and is aiming to hit the two billion mark by the end of the year.

For Professor Ruan Zongze, from the China Institute of International Studies, it is important that BRICS countries co-operate with one another in order to enhance the vaccination process.

In his opening address to the BRICS Summit this past week, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that “as much as we have known sorrow and hardship, we have also known solidarity”.

Expressing similar sentiments to that of President Xi, he also pointed out that “our collective response has demonstrated what can be achieved when we work together”.

President Ramaphosa also took the opportunity to welcome the decision of the BRICS ministers of health to operationalise a virtual BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre. This sends the clear message that co-operation must be practical and relevant.

One marvels at the Chinese feat of defeating poverty.

Yet this gives us hope. One day too, Covid-19 will be defeated but we need to ensure that we deepen co-operation in fighting Covid-19, especially as BRICS countries.

Seale wrote his PhD dissertation on Sino-SA relations before and during BRICS.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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