South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday launched an online platform to enable all African governments access critical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus.

“We have an urgent need for medical supplies, testing equipment and facilities to isolate and quarantine people, laboratories, personal protection equipment and ventilators,’’ Ramaphosa announced at the launch of the Africa Medical Supplies Platform in his capacity as African Union (AU) chair.

The platform was launched during a virtual meeting for the Extraordinary China-Africa Solidarity Summit against COVID-19, convened by the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) co-chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Ramaphosa said currently many African countries are having to purchase goods with resources largely obtained from the multilateral agencies and asked China to consider supporting Africa in the provision of diagnostic and therapeutic supplies over a period of six months.

“This support would be managed by AfriExImBank in collaboration with its counterpart in China. This would allow several African countries to procure goods from China,’’ he said.

Ramaphosa said the AU has established an African COVID-19 Response Fund as a key intervention to mobilize and direct resources towards the continent’s response to the challenge.

The AU chair said currently Africa has over 250,000 confirmed infections and more than 6,700 deaths, with South Africa having the largest number of cases.

“Although the number of infections in Africa is currently lower than elsewhere in the world, there is an expectation that the worst is still to come, with dire social and economic consequences.

“The AU has been in the forefront of mobilizing international support for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa.’’

Ramaphosa said they have called for debt relief for African countries that are indebted, including a two-year debt standstill and a plan for the restructuring of both private and bilateral debt.

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