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Remarks by African Union Chair President Cyril Ramaphosa at the online media briefing to launch the Africa Medical Supplies Platform

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Your Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission,
AU Special Envoy, Mr Strive Masiyiwa,
Our strategic partners and honoured guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to thank you for honouring the invitation to be part of this briefing on important developments in the continental effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. 

This is a truly global crisis that has left no country untouched. 

It is said that in crisis there is opportunity. 

Driven by the African Union, the countries of the continent have rallied together with both urgency and purpose.

This pandemic has ushered in a new era of intra-African cooperation. 

A continental strategy for COVID-19 has been developed and is being implemented.

A response fund has been established, to which African countries themselves are the primary contributors.

We are harnessing the potential of this increased cooperation to innovate in ways once deemed impractical or impossible.

The continent’s response to this pandemic is testament to Africa’s resilience, to our often undervalued expertise in managing public health emergencies, and, and above all, to our unwavering quest for self-reliance.

Today we unveil the jewel in the crown of pan-African cooperation. 

The Africa Medical Supplies Platform, developed in partnership with Afreximbank, is a ground-breaking innovation.

It is a continental online portal to enable every single African country to access critical medical supplies needed in the fight against the pandemic. 

Through this platform we will address shortages and security of supply, ensure price competitiveness and transparency in procurement, reduce logistical delays, simplify payment processes and provide a common platform where governments can access services from quality and certified suppliers.

Think of it as the Amazon, the Alibaba or even the Ebay of coronavirus resources on the African continent. Made in Africa by Africans. 

The fundamental difference being that on this platform the buyer is not an individual, but governments.

And countries will be able to directly source from manufacturers in both the necessary quantities and at competitive prices.

Once a vaccine is available it too will be added to this portal in line with our stated commitment to ensuring there is equitable access to any form of lifesaving medication.

Resources will be secured by governments on a quota basis determined among other things by vulnerability level.

The benefits of resource pooling in such a manner are innumerable. 

Firstly, the time factor. 

Countries will have ready access to an online marketplace with the click of a button, as opposed to the onerous and time-consuming process of scouring the globe to procure these medical supplies. 

Secondly, competitive pricing. 

Connecting manufacturers and suppliers with governments directly removes the ‘middle man’ in supply chain processes that far too often becomes the doorway into which corrupt practices like price inflation and ‘agent management fees’ enter.

Thirdly, security of supply.

By pooling the needs of the continent, we manage to achieve quantities of scale and present suppliers with a large and assured market. 

Finally, and arguably most importantly, with this platform we are laying another building block towards the African Continental Free Trade Area, whose launch has been delayed by the pandemic.

African manufacturers and suppliers will have a platform for their products and services. 

Manufacturing and industrial activity in African countries will be catalysed as governments seek competitively priced goods and services from nearby markets. 

Made in Africa is our goal. 

This platform is extending a lifeline to African small businesses and large industries that have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Many will now be able to repurpose their operations, as industries in a number of East African countries have done by converting their businesses to produce personal protective equipment.

The entrepreneurship and innovation that has sprung up across the continent in response to the pandemic is remarkable.

There are the scientists in Senegal that developed a COVID-19 rapid test kit that would cost $1 per patient, or the scientists, doctors, engineers and students from an African network of institutions that developed a prototype for a ventilator that can be made using 3D printers

I urge you to go and find out about Solar Wash, a touch-free water dispenser developed by entrepreneurs in Ghana, that is solar powered. 

Or about the DiagnoseMe android application developed in Burkina Faso that enables users to quickly detect coronavirus symptoms. 

But don’t just find out about them, report on them. 

Showcase African excellence and these success stories, because it is important we tell the story of how Africa has managed this pandemic. 

Like all these examples of African ingenuity, the Africa Medical Supplies Platform is a product of African excellence, creativity and collaboration.

The overriding objective of this platform is to provide equitable access for all. 

What we are launching here today is Pan-Africanism at work in the service of the people of this continent. 

We are proud of, and immensely encouraged by, the work that has gone into the development of this ground-breaking platform.

I wish to thank our strategic partners, in particular, the African Union, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Afreximbank.

I wish to thank our Special Envoy Mr Strive Masiyiwa and all the companies, organisations and individuals who are contributing to this life-saving initiative.

With these words, I once again call upon you as our valued partners to tell the world about the many stories of Africa’s response to this pandemic and the many ways in which it is changing our continent for the better.

I thank you.