BRICS STI Programme crucial in COVID fight, says Ramaphosa

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International relations and cooperation minister Dr Naledi Pandor and president Cyril Ramaphosa.
International relations and cooperation minister Dr Naledi Pandor and president Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has lauded the efforts of the BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Framework Programme in its response to COVID-19, calling for more investments to be channelled towards innovation-focused projects.

Speaking at the virtual 12 annual BRICS Summit 2020, hosted by Russia yesterday, Ramaphosa addressed delegates and the heads of state of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

He called upon the BRICS countries to unite and demonstrate a collective will to provide leadership that seeks to resolve socio-economic challenges that threaten stability, security and economic growth on the African continent, including trade disruptions, African debt and supply chain challenges.

Discussing the COVID-19 crisis, Ramaphosa noted the disease has put immense strain on global public health systems, and significant resources have had to be re-directed to containing the spread of the virus.

While the pandemic has taken an even greater toll on emerging economies already facing challenges of poverty, inequality and under-development, the president commended the speed and efficiency with which countries mobilised the capacities of the BRICS STI Framework Programme in their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Investing in science, technology and innovation will not only prepare us for future health emergencies, it will also enable us to confront other global challenges.

“Our ministries responsible for science and their funding agencies should be commended for the speed and efficiency with which they mobilised the capacities of our BRICS STI Framework Programme in their response to COVID-19. We should step up co-operation in this area to support the recovery effort,” he noted.

The BRICS STI Framework Programme was introduced in 2017 under the bilateral and multilateral frameworks in accordance with the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in STI, between the governments of BRICS countries.

It seeks todrive rapid and sustainable economic growth and social progress in the BRICS countries through innovation. The framework stipulates that innovation is one of the key driving forces of global sustainable development, playing a fundamental role in promoting economic growth, supporting job creation, entrepreneurship and structural reform, enhancing productivity and competitiveness, and addressing global challenges to provide better services for citizens.

“We further welcome the commitment by our health ministers to promote access to affordable, quality medicines and to make diagnostic tools available within BRICS countries. We support the initiative to establish an integrated early warning system for preventing mass infectious diseases, and believe this is a project that could be supported by the New Development Bank.”

Ramaphosa went on to say SA is participating in several research initiatives with continental and international partners, including the global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

The current crisis demonstrates the need to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre in SA, as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration, he pointed out.

“The New Development Bank has a significant role to play. To date, the bank has approved $4 billion of COVID-related emergency assistance projects, including $1 billion to SA to support our health response and social relief measures. We welcome the indications from the New Development Bank that it aims to provide up to $10 billion in crisis-related assistance and to support economic recovery efforts.”

Ramaphosa also endorsed the call made by UN secretary-general António Guterres, for a new global deal, which includes a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, the reform of debt architecture and greater access to affordable credit for developing countries.

“In the spirit of this new global deal we call on the international community and our BRICS partners to support a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries. This will enable African countries to contain the disease and rebuild our damaged economies,” he stated.

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