African Union (AU) chair President Cyril Ramaphosa says despite the Covid-19 socioeconomic devastation in Africa and the rest of the world, opportunities had emerged, including the creation of decent work.
Ramaphosa, speaking on Global Leaders’ Day at the International Labour Organisation Global Summit on Covid-19 and the World of Work on a virtual platform, said Covid-19 had given added impetus to the goal of making workplaces “more agile, more adaptable and safer”.
He said people had to be protected against the rising tide of unemployment through universal social protection.
“We have to invest in people’s capabilities, in skills development, in lifelong learning, in workplace inclusivity and in advancing gender equality. Above all, we have to transform our domestic policy frameworks to support the creation of decent and sustainable work,” he said.
But within this unprecedented global crisis lay the seeds of opportunity, to deliver greater economic security, equal opportunity and social justice.
“As we collectively look to the future, we have an immense task before us to rebuild our shattered lives and economies,” Ramaphosa said.
The coronavirus had left no aspect of human existence untouched, from health to security, from social systems to economies and livelihoods and had accelerated the pace of change. It had forced transformational change upon the world, change that would otherwise have been gradual and slow.
The African continent had, so far, had lower rates of infection than many other parts of the world. But because of weak health systems, resource constraints and pre-existing economic vulnerabilities, the longterm impact would be severe. The AU had developed a Covid-19 strategy, accompanied by the establishment of the AU Covid-19 Response Fund, to assist member states in mounting an effective response.
Last month, the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, which would enable Africa countries to procure much-needed supplies faster and more competitively priced, was launched.
“We are also engaged with international partners and institutions to mobilise a substantial stimulus package to assist African countries to rebuild their economies,” he said.
“Among other things, this will enable us to invest in job creation initiatives, in workplace skilling and reskilling and to support entrepreneurship and the development of small businesses.”
As the world strived to recover from the pandemic, it must be guided by the spirit of solidarity and ensure that the people and their welfare were put at the centre of all efforts – and “all our responses to this pandemic [must] leave no one behind”.