Unified coronavirus response for Africa


By Thandi Tobias:

For centuries, Africa has struggled with adverse poverty, poor healthcare, sanitation problems, malnutrition, low economic growth, political instability, wars and many other socio-economic woes. To an extent, this has contributed to the very resilient character of our continent.

As a people, we 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.


The African Union (AU) has been working tirelessly towards a more unified response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Africa, here is what the AU, through its various structures and organs, is doing to help curb this invisible enemy:

We are stronger together, therefore it is of the utmost priority that Africa and its nations have better humanitarian and trade corridors between countries. While borders are there to protect us, they also divide us, so there is constant work being done by the AU to strengthen our connections with each other.

The AU is putting continental ministerial coordination committees on Health, Finance and Transport in place to unify our continent’s efforts more seamlessly.


We are getting 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 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is rolling out millions of test kits in a coordinated and cohesive fashion.

The AU’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 every citizen of Africa, must play your part in investing and 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.

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 poorest countries 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.

Most recently, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as AU chairperson, announced the appointment of four special envoys to find additional financial support for Africa. The four special envoys are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, Tidjane Thiam of Senegal and Trevor Manuel of South Africa.

They will target G20 countries, international organisations and African business communities. All the funds raised will support the AU’s Joint Continental Strategy for Covid-19 Outbreak. The envoys are striving for immediate humanitarian and economic relief across Africa.

We are asking everyone 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 protect its efforts by following health and government advisories. The AU is guiding us with #FactsNotFear and it is a fact that we can beat this virus with all the health and financial assistance available.

We remind Africa’s people to follow social distancing rules carefully, to maintain good hygiene at all times and to contact your relevant health authorities in the case of symptoms.

To the AU member states, ramp up your ‘prepare and protect’ measures with the advised recommendations from the AU:

Enhance your abilities to detect severe acute respiratory symptoms and infections. Where borders are open, screen all incoming travellers more extensively upon arrival. Notify the World Health Organisation and Africa CDC of all suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases.

May our continent rest assured in the comfort that Africa is working behind the scenes and it is prepared to protect its people so we can prosper.

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