By Zinathi Gquma
“I am optimistic about Africa for the future”, says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on CNBC Africa.
Commenting on Africa’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Blair praised the continent on the initial measures that were taken to curb the spread of the virus. According to Blair, “Africa has got some things right, because the deaths in Africa are a third of the number of deaths in the UK.”
Blair’s comments echoed those of the international community, during the first stages of Covid-19 outbreaks in the continent. However, the surge in Covid-19 infections is increasing at alarming rates; with the former British Prime Minister questioning: “Is Covid-19 in Africa ticking up or taking off?”
“Governments are doing their level best, but Covid-19 in Africa could take off if we’re not careful”, Blair cautions.
South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised country, has the fifth largest number of Covid-19 infections in the world; after the US, Brazil, India and Russia. On South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, Blair commended the President’s leadership, saying, “He was following what Europe has seen as best practice”.
He acknowledged that the hard lockdown implemented by Ramaphosa in the initial stages put South Africa in a position to curtail the spread of the disease, while giving the country enough time to build up the capacity of the health system.
The former UK Prime Minister now runs the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative, which aims to make African governments work harder for their people. The non-profit organisation has been instrumental in assisting African countries to implement practical measures in the fight against Covid-19, without destroying their economies.
“This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever seen for governments”, says Blair, who stepped down after a decade of power in 2007.
“I would not like to be taking these decisions in government right now.”