In a starkly poignant address, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa challenged the world’s perception of Africa and African nations at the New Global Financial Pact Summit in France on Friday, June 23.
“We are not beggars,” the South African leader declared, standing shoulder to shoulder with his African counterparts.
The sentiment resonated throughout the venue, packed with European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who called the summit, and the heads of financial and economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Ramaphosa recalled how a coalition of seven African nations, including Zambia, Comoros, the Republic of Congo, Senegal, Uganda, Egypt, and South Africa, traveled to Ukraine and Russia this month and took a firm stance on the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict’s negative impact on the African continent due to rising prices for food and fertilizers.
“Africa should never be seen as a continent that needs generosity. We want to be treated as equals,” President Ramaphosa told the assembly, emphasizing the collective demand to reopen the Black Sea Channel to stabilize the world market for grains and fertilizers.
The African leaders, united in purpose, asserted that they were not in attendance to plead but rather to establish their importance on the world stage, arguing that their nations had evolved to become key players in the global financial markets.
Ramaphosa further challenged the international community over promises he claimed were not fully lived up to, explicitly pointing to a promised $100 billion fund in prior talks. He praised efforts from Germany and the United States but highlighted the betrayal African countries felt.
“We felt like we were beggars,” he confessed, referring to Africa’s struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Northern Hemisphere nations hoarded vaccines, leaving African countries feeling marginalized.
He said that resentment deepened when resistance was met at the World Trade Organization over Africa’s vaccine manufacturing initiative.
Ramaphosa questioned the international community’s value system: “What is more important, life or profits by your big pharmaceutical companies?”
Ramaphosa ended his address by calling for action on the promises made to Africa, declaring, “We must now see action flowing from that.”
The bold statements from the African leaders make it clear that the continent seeks an equal partnership in world affairs and will no longer accept being treated as a secondary consideration on the world stage.