South African Government and Private Sector Response to COVID-19 with H.E. Nomaindiya Mfeketo, Ambassador of South Africa to the U.S.
On June 11, 2020, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted a webinar featuring H.E. Nomaindiya Mfeketo, the new Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the U.S. on the South African government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Temitope Iluyemi Director, Global Government Relations for Africa, P&G moderated the discussion.
Ambassador Mfeketo opened the discussion by emphasizing South Africa’s stance of solidarity with African Americans in their efforts to rectify racial inequalities in the United States. Since assuming her present position in March 2020, Ambassador Mfeketo has prioritized strengthening bilateral relations with the U.S. Government and private sector, supporting youth and women, and creating economic opportunities in health, education, energy, and infrastructure.
She recognized President Ramaphosa’s work in leading African response in mitigating COVID-19 impacts and collectivizing the continental response. In less than a month from recording their first case, President Ramaphosa implemented a nation-wide lockdown to control the virus spread and prepare health systems. South Africa has adopted a 5-level plan approach to transitions out of lockdown and as of June 1st has eased lockdown measures to level 3 allowing more businesses to operate.
To fund social and economic relief efforts the government established a Solidarity Fund to mobilize funds that assist with food, medical supplies, and testing equipment. The fund has received over R2.5 billion in donations so far, including those from the U.S. The South African government has also provided a $29 billion USD fiscal support package to provide unemployment benefits, assistance to companies in distress, grants and loans to SMEs, and food, water, and shelter for vulnerable communities.
South Africa has received COVID-19 response support from multilateral institutions including the World Health Organization, Africa CDC, African Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
Ambassador Mfeketo acknowledged private sector partnerships between the U.S. and South Africa for COVID-19 relief efforts. Regarding debt relief, South Africa is relying on financial institutions and the G20 to consider suspension of debt service for low-income countries until the end of 2020.
Ambassador Mfeketo informed the audience of the postponement of the conclusion of outstanding negotiations from the AU Summit earlier this year. She stressed the importance of addressing those technical and legal prerequisites to enable preferential trade under the AFCFTA. She also reminded viewers of the importance of external partners in supporting Africa's regional integration efforts through investment in infrastructure, capacity building, and technology. Tourism is also a sector that is expected to be opening soon.
In her final remarks, Ambassador Mfeketo reiterated her priority to strengthen the economic relationship between the U.S. and South Africa. Concerning diplomacy, she underlined maintaining a strong bilateral relationship with the U.S.
Florie Liser, CEO and President, Corporate Council on Africa, closed out the session by highlighting Africa’s promising economic growth pre-COVID-19 and assuring wide-spread support for the continent’s recovery.