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Address by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Global Health Summit

President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, Mr Mario Draghi,
President of the European Commission, Ms Ursula von der Leyen,
Excellencies,
Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
In my capacity as the President of South Africa and as the African Union COVID-19 Champion, I welcome the opportunity to address this Global Health Summit.
 
We are here to chart a course for collective action in response to both current and future global health emergencies.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extreme vulnerability of our national health systems and also of our economies against a disease burden of this magnitude.
 
It has highlighted once more that investing in health care is key to economic prosperity and to progress in human development.
 
As much as COVID-19 has exposed our weaknesses, it has also brought our strengths to the fore. 
 
There has been unprecedented collaboration between countries and a massive show of solidarity with vulnerable communities and societies.
 
As Chair of the African Union when the pandemic broke out, I was privileged to work with my colleagues on the African continent in developing and implementing the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak.
 
We established an AU COVID-19 Response Fund capitalised by Member States, international partners and the private sector.
 
We set up the ground-breaking African Medical Supplies Platform to assist with equitable access to medical supplies, diagnostic tools and therapeutics.
 
Late last year we set up an African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to secure vaccines for all countries on our continent.
 
Throughout, we have drawn on the continent’s expertise, capabilities and institutions such as the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
For this Global Health Summit to achieve its aims we must share lessons and best practice on how we are dealing with this current pandemic.
 
We must show our commitment to equitable access to tools, supplies, vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

We must do away with health and vaccine nationalism.

It is for this reason that we must review the international intellectual property and patent regime and determine with regard to how it should be applied in the event of global health emergencies.

We are in a global war and must use all our weapons without hiding behind profit at the expense of lives.
 
In this regard, we call on all countries to support a temporary waiver of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to enable countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines. We thank Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission and David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament for their stated intention to engage in discussions at the WTO and we look forward to a successful conclusion of discussions in this regard .
 
Such a waiver would enable developing countries in particular to expand their pharmaceutical sectors, to facilitate technology and skills transfer and, above all, to save lives.
 
It is simply not acceptable and cannot be justified that in the 21st century, Africa has only received 20m vaccine doses which is a paltry 2% of the Global supply. We should hang our heads in shame.
 
We would like to thank those countries that have made financial contributions to COVAX and allowed exports of vaccines. 
 
South Africa supports the establishment of a Global Health Council to strengthen preparedness and response mechanisms in anticipation of future global and national pandemics.
 
Safeguarding human health is our collective responsibility.
 
South Africa supports the principles of the Rome Declaration.
 
We are confident that this Summit will be a turning point in our quest not only for equitable access to the vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that are needed now to overcome this pandemic, but also to equitable health care for all into the future.
 
As we approach this task, let us be guided by the words of former President Nelson Mandela, who said:
 
“None can succeed without the success of the other.”
 
I thank you.