South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster as he announced a range of extraordinary measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has infected 61 people so far.

The Chairperson of the African Union, AU, President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has appointed ex-Nigerian Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Mr. Tidjane Thiam and Mr. Trevor Manuel as Special Envoys of AU.

They are to mobilise international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The special envoys were tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions.

Kaberuka is an economist and former President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank, AfDB, while Manuel was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission.

Thiam, a banker and businessman, is the former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse Group, a leading global financial services company.

Announcing the appointment on Sunday, Ramaphosa stated that “in the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries, these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.”


He observed the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic in both scale and reach, noting that this required coordinated international action to stimulate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly, developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

Ramaphosa added: “The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community.”

The AU Chair said the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to the grave public health emergency.

After announcing the appointment of Okonjo-Iweala and others, Ramaphosa said the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.

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