Covid-19, which has spread to every country in Africa has become a stumbling block to the impoverished continent’s progress and development, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday.
In his Africa Day message, the UN chief said the whole world, Africa included, had fallen on hard times because of the pandemic which has infected and claimed many lives worldwide since its outbreak in China last year.
On May 25 every year, African countries commemorate the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, the precursor to the African Union (AU), whose objective was primarily to end colonialism on the continent.
“This year, the world marks Africa Day under extremely difficult circumstances as we grapple with the global Covid-19 pandemic, which threatens to derail progress by African countries towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” said Guterres.
He, however, said African countries had demonstrated commendable leadership through a swift and coordinated response to the pandemic.
The AU has since established a task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and appointed special envoys to mobilise international support.
“Its (AU’s) Peace and Security Council has also taken steps to counter the negative impact of Covid-19 on the implementation of critical peace agreements and reconciliation efforts,” noted Guterres.
“The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention established a response fund, while African member states undertook robust measures to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the socio-economic impacts.”
This year’s Africa Day theme is: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”
Guterres said the UN was calling debt relief to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the resources-constrained continent.
“We are calling for debt relief and action to maintain food supplies, protect jobs and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings,” he said.
“African governments, like all those around the world, can also use this moment to shape new policies that bolster health systems, improve social protection and pursue climate-friendly pathways.”
He added: “On Africa Day, I reaffirm my total solidarity with the people and governments of Africa in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and paving the way for recovery and a better future for all.