PM Abiy: If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all

25 Mar 2020

Only a global victory can end this pandemic, not a temporary rich countries’ win

There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world.

That is why the current strategy of unco-ordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this.

We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.

Fragile and vulnerable at the best of times, African economies are staring at an abyss. Let me illustrate this with the situation in my own country.

Ethiopia has made steady progress in the provision of health services over the past two decades. But nothing has prepared us for threats posed by Covid-19. Access to basic health services remains the exception rather than the norm. Even taking such common-sense precautions as washing hands is often an unaffordable luxury to the half of the population who lack access to clean water.

Even seemingly costless social distancing is hard to implement. Our lifestyle is deeply communal, with extended families traditionally sharing the burdens and bounties of life together, eating meals from the same plate. Our traditional and rain-dependent agriculture is dictated by the fixed timeframes of weather cycles in which planting, weeding and harvesting must happen. The slightest disruption to that chain, even for a brief period, can spell disaster, further jeopardising already tenuous food supply and food security.

Take Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s largest company, which accounts for 3 per cent of national output and is a major source of hard currency. It will be pushed to the brink as its business is upended by the pandemic. Shortage of hard currency will then make it all but impossible to source essential medical supplies and equipment from abroad. The cost of servicing our debts is already often more than our annual health budgets. The list continues.

This grim reality is not unique to Ethiopia. It is shared by most African countries. But if they do not take appropriate measures to tackle the pandemic, no country in the world is safe.

Momentary victory by a rich country in controlling the virus at a national level, coupled with travel bans and border closures, may give a semblance of accomplishment. But we all know this is a stopgap. Only global victory can bring this pandemic to an end.

Covid-19 teaches us that we are all global citizens connected by a single virus that recognises none of our natural or man-made diversity: not the colour of our skin, nor our passports, or the gods we worship. For the virus, what matters is the fact of our common humanity.

That is why the strategy to tackle the human and economic cost of this global scourge must be global in design and application. Health is a worldwide public good. It requires global action guided by a sense of global solidarity.

But Covid-19 has also exposed our dark underbelly. The world community desperately needs global-level leadership to tackle swiftly pandemics such as this, and in a way that is institutionalised rather than ad hoc.

A good place to start is with the World Health Organization. As countries with the necessary resources focus on fighting the pandemic through their national institutions, the WHO must be empowered and resourced sufficiently to co-ordinate responses globally and directly to assist governments in developing countries.

In the meantime, the G20 must provide collective leadership for a co-ordinated global response. There is no time to waste: millions of lives are at risk.

Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.

Finally, all of Africa’s development partners must ensure that their development aid budgets remain ringfenced and are not diverted to domestic priorities. This is where true humanity and solidarity must be demonstrated. If such aid were ever necessary in Africa, it is now more than ever before.

The writer is prime minister of Ethiopia and the 2019 Nobel Peace prize laureate

This opion piece was first published in The Financial Times. Read the original article here.

Latest News

Browse all
Over the century, Ethiopia has endured acute political polarisation and divisions mainly due to the tendency of elites to resolve political disagreements through coercion rather than compromise. As such, the country’s elites have exhibited no semblance of a democratic political culture all throughout. They often resort to confrontational approaches to ensure their interests. Ethiopia has now embarked on an inclusive…
16 May 2022
Ethiopia’s National Dialogue, Key to ensure National Consensus
The Embassy hosted the official launch of SOPHOS AFRICA in the UK, a charity organization that endeavors to contribute to the development of a critical mass of transformed minds and lives to transform people and places in Africa. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Teferi Melesse noted that apart from the traditional government-to-government relationship, #UK NGOs serve as important tools for…
13 May 2022
The official launch of SOPHOS AFRICA in the UK.
   የበለጠ መረጃ ለማግኘት የኢ.ፌ.ዴ.ሪ ጉምሩክ ኮሚሽን ድረ-ገፅ ይመልከቱ፡ https://bit.ly/3L1qFqw
9 May 2022
FDRE Customs Commission
In respect of the existing humanitarian concern in the Tigray Region, the government had boldly vowed that it would not sit idle when the people of Tigray die hungry. As per that commitment, it declared an indefinite humanitarian truce a couple of weeks ago. This is hoped to clear the misplaced accusations over deliberate humanitarian blockade in Tigray. If the…
6 May 2022
The Declaration of an Indefinite Humanitarian Truce is a Demonstration of Government’s Commitment for Peace
The Ethiopian Embassy in London, in collaboration with Ethio-Coffee Importers Ltd, held a briefing event for Ethiopian stakeholders on how to promote green and roasted coffee in the UK during the next Coffee Exhibition due to unfold in December 2022. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Teferi Melesse said the session will help stakeholders to promote Ethiopian Green and Roasted coffee…
6 May 2022
Promoting Ethiopian Coffee.
ኤምባሲያችን ከታች በተጠቀሰው የስራ መደብ ላይ አመልካቾችን አወዳድሮ መቅጠር ይፈልጋል። መስፈርቱን የምታሟሉ አመልካቾች የትምህርት እና የስራ ማስረጃዎቻችሁን በሚከተሉት የኢሜል አድራሻዎች በመላክ መመዝገብ የምትችሉ መሆኑን እንገልፃለን። adminfinance@ethioembassy.org.uk and ict@ethioembassy.org.uk To View in PDF Format: Click here   Embassy of Ethiopia, in London would like to invite qualified and experienced candidates to apply for the following position. Interested applicants who meet the specified requirements…
29 Apr 2022
ማስታወቂያ | Announcement
The Government of Ethiopia in Coordination with Partners Continues to Deliver Humanitarian Assistance to those in Need in the Tigray Region In accordance with the government's directives to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need in the Tigray Region, coordination was made with partners. A cluster arrangement which aimed at ensuring smooth humanitarian response to the most affected areas has…
21 Apr 2022
Humanitarian Assistance
Promoting Ethiopian Green and Roasted Coffee in the UK: Briefing session on planned Coffee Exhibition, December 2022 Friday, May 6/2022 |  10:00AM (London, BST) | 12:00PM (Addis Ababa, BST +2) Online via Zoom Participation in the webinar is by invitation only. [button to="https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUvcumgqj8sHtQf6vQ0YKe4fLkH8XKHNgev "]Register here to participate >[/button]      Background: The coffee industry is of paramount importance to the Ethiopian economy,…
20 Apr 2022
Webinar | Promoting Ethiopian Green and Roasted Coffee in the UK
በዩናይትድ ኪንግደም እና አየርላንድ የምትኖሩ ኢትዮጵያውያንና ትውልደ ኢትዮጵያውያን በሙሉ፡- በለንደን የሚገኘው የኢትዮጵያ ኤምባሲ ለቀጣይ ስራ ያግዝ ዘንድ የዲያስፖራን መረጃ በማሰባሰብ ላይ ሲሆን፣ ከታች በተያያዘው ማስፈንጠርያ በመግባት እንድትመዘገቡ በአክብሮት እንጠይቃለን፡፡ ማብራሪያ፡ ይህ ቅጽ ኤምባሲያችን ለዜጎቻችን የሚሰጠውን አገልግሎት ለማሻሻል እና በቀጣይ አዳዲስ መረጃዎች በቀላሉ እንዲደርስ ማድረግ እንዲያስችል፣ እንዲሁም በተለያዩ የሙያ ዘርፎች ተሰማርተው የሚገኙ የዳያስፖራ ማህበረሰብ አባላት  ሀገራቸውን በሙያቸው የሚያግዙበትን ሁኔታ ለማመቻቸት የተዘጋጀ…
14 Apr 2022
Diaspora Registration Form.
የኢሚግሬሽን፣ ዜግነትና ወሳኝ ኩነት ኤጀንሲ ከኢድ እስከ ኢድ ጥሪን ተከትሎ ወደ ሀገር ቤት ለሚመጡ ተጓዦች የሚያገለግል ጊዜያዊ መመሪያ አወጣ የኢሚግሬሽን፣ ዜግነትና ወሳኝ ኩነት ኤጀንሲ ከኢድ እስከ ኢድ ጥሪን ተከትሎ ወደ ሀገር ቤት ለሚመጡ ኢትዮጵያውያን፣ ትውልደ ኢትዮጵያውያንና የኢትዮጵያ ወዳጆች የሚያገለግል ጊዜያዊ መመሪያ አወጣ። ኤጀንሲው ለኢትዮጵያ ዳያስፖራ አገልግሎት በላከው ደብዳቤ መሰረት የመንግስትን ጥሪ ተቀብለው ወደ ሀገር ቤት ለሚመጡ ኢትዮጵያውያን፣ ትውልደ ኢትዮጵያውያንና የኢትዮጵያ…
14 Apr 2022
ሀገር ቤት ለሚመጡ ተጓዦች የሚያገለግል ጊዜያዊ መመሪያ
“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joint report on allegedly committed human rights abuses in Wolkait lack impartiality in all of the steps from research methodology to the presentation of findings and recommendations. H.E. Ambassador Dina Mufti, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.” https://www.press.et/?p=70670  
12 Apr 2022
Press
Press Statement On the Joint Report of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch ===== The Government of Ethiopia will carefully examine the content of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch’s report on allegedly committed crimes in Welkait. A cursory look at the report indicates that it covers sensitive political changes in the country, peace and security, and internal boundary matters,…
6 Apr 2022
Press statement: On the joint report of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.