The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of an over-dependence on fragile global supply chains even for basic foods and essential medical products, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday as he called on the international community to support a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries.
Addressing the virtual 12th BRICS summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ramaphosa said the pandemic has taught the world the necessity of strengthening health systems and being prepared for future emergencies of this nature and scale.
“It has shown us the importance of investing in science, technology and innovation,” he said via video link.
Above all, the president said, the health crisis has taught that international solidarity must pave the way to stability, security and economic growth.
“The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of an over-dependence on fragile global supply chains, even for basic foods and essential medical products, Ramaphosa said, underlining that it has damaged economies and devastated livelihoods across the world.
“As African countries, it (the pandemic) has shown us the need to build more resilient national and regional supply-chains to enable the continent to respond more effectively to such crises in the future, he said.
For emerging economies already facing challenges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, the pandemic has taken an even greater toll, Ramaphosa said, as he called for unity among nations.
As BRICS countries, we are called upon to unite, to demonstrate our collective will and to provide leadership,” he said.
Endorsing the call made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a New Global Deal, Ramaphosa called on the international community and the BRICS partners to support a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries.
This will enable African countries to contain the disease and rebuild our damaged economies, he said.
The BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) is known as an influential bloc that represents over 3.6 billion people, or half of the world’s population. The BRICS countries have a combined GDP of USD 16.6 trillion.
Ramaphosa also welcomed the initiative of the New Development Bank, started by BRICS, to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance and to support economic recovery efforts to member countries to deal with the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Reminding his counterparts that South Africa is participating in several research initiatives for a COVID-19 vaccine with continental and international partners, Ramaphosa said the current experience demonstrated the need to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre in South Africa, as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration.
He also reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to work towards reform of the UN Security Council as well as the World Trade Organisation.
“(This) is key to rebalancing the global trading system and ensuring that its benefits are shared more equitably,” the president said.
The BRICS summit was also attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.