Pandor welcomes inputs on Covid-19 response
Minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor led a webinar on Thursday on the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on the African continent. “This is the first in a series of public engagements initiated by DIRCO to enhance the quality of public participation in the shaping of South Africa’s foreign policy trajectory and shaping our thinking and action in the response to the pandemic,” Pandor told a distinguished panel of speakers and participants.
The speakers included Dr Ahmed Ouma, the Deputy Director of the African Centre for Disease Control, Dr Eddy Maloka, CEO of the African Peer Review Mechanism, and Dr Philani Mthembu of the Institute for Global Dialogue.
“We have had many deliberations on Covid-19, but these tend to occur at the level of state actors rather than our academics, think tanks, and bodies focused on research outside of the clinical sciences or the health sector,” Pandor said, “We are thrilled that today our attempt to bring into play a broader range of expertise will assist us in expanding government’s knowledge base.”
Pandor reiterated Africa’s unwavering commitment to silencing the guns on the continent, even though Covid-19 has undermined the African Union’s efforts in this regard. The date for the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement has been postponed due to the pandemic and the dangers of cross-border interaction.
The AU has taken proactive measures to curtail the spread of the pandemic, and strengthened the African Centers of Disease Control. The virus is going to have a significant impact on the continent, and the key is to save lives and strengthen local health systems so that countries have the capacity to respond to the peak and then recover, rebuild and overcome.
“Africa has resilience, but we must not act as though the pandemic is the only challenge. We need to develop regional supply chains, act on our industrialisation strategy, enhance intra-African trade, and ensure we have the necessary human resources to address our challenges,” Pandor said.
The suggestion made by Elizabeth Sidropoulos, the Chief Executive of the South African Institute for International Relations, that a task team be established on conflicts in the context of the pandemic was welcomed by the Minister.
“One of the key objectives for South Africa as AU Chair is that we need to do whatever possible so that conflicts don’t deteriorate further. A task force on Covid-19 and conflicts at the AU level will bring actors around the table,” Sidropoulos said.
Specific mention was made of the fact that the conflict in Libya had gotten worse since the outbreak of the pandemic, and that conflict in the Central African Republic and South Sudan had not subsided.