South African President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilda to Pretoria and praised Belgium for its assistance to Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa highlighted Belgium’s role in supporting the World Health Organization’s mRNA technology transfer hub initiative, which was established in South Africa to improve Africa’s access to vaccines and therapeutics.
“I’d like to express our gratitude to the Kingdom of Belgium for its contribution to the global fight against COVID-19.” “Belgium is an important donor to the vaccine alliance GAVI for the operation of COVAX, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative,” Ramaphosa said at a press conference with Belgian King Philippe on Thursday.
During the pandemic, Belgium donated approximately 10 million doses of vaccines, with a significant portion going to African countries in need of vaccines.
Ramaphosa praised the collaboration between Afrigen Biologics in South Africa and Univercells Group in Belgium to develop a novel mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and improve preparedness for future health emergencies.
The consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were also to be discussed, with Ramaphosa emphasising South Africa’s support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. South Africa hasn’t publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“During our meeting, we hope to share our perspectives on the conflict and learn more about Belgium’s position.” “It is also critical to consider the impact of the conflict on the international economy, particularly on global food and energy security,” Ramaphosa said ahead of a private meeting with the king.
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Belgium understands South Africa’s position on the Ukraine conflict and urged the country to use its “channels of communication” to advance on a path towards peace.
“I believe this is Europe’s major foreign policy issue, and I fear it will remain so for the foreseeable future.” We are fully committed to assisting Ukraine in defending itself. “We see this as critical not only to defend European security but also to uphold the principle of the United Nations Charter,” Lahbib said.
“We have always looked up to South Africa as a key partner for peace, the defence of human rights, and fundamental international principles,” Lahbib said.
Over the next few days, the Belgian monarchs are expected to meet with South African business, academic, and civil society leaders in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as visit historical and cultural sites.