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Remarks by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at Africa Day Event

Vienna, Austria
Africa Day 2020
Rafael Grossi

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you very much, Dear Ambassador.

It’s a great pleasure to be here with you this morning, with all my dear colleagues from the other organisations and the distinguished ambassadors from the Groups.

Today is a very important day for Africa and for all of us, as President Ramaphosa was reminding us in his very inspiring message. Fifty-seven years ago, when the Organisation of African Unity was established, the fight was against colonialism – for emancipation, for freedom, for liberty. Today, the fight continues, but it has taken different dimensions. Today, emancipation means economic development. It means fighting hunger, poverty, destitution and illness.

This year, unfortunately, we were all hit by this completely unexpected phenomenon of the coronavirus. It is undoubtedly for all of us an immense challenge, and of course it is a challenge in Africa.

Let me say from the vantage point of my organization and yours – the IAEA – how we see things, what we have been doing and what we intend to continue doing together on this issue.

You were kindly reminding us, Ambassador, in your opening remarks that the IAEA has been helping, and indeed we have. One hundred and 20 countries turned to us for help. We mounted the biggest operation of assistance in the history of the IAEA. Of those 120 countries, 41 are African countries. So more than one-third of all those requesting assistance are our African sisters and brothers.

We have been helping them, as you know, through the provision of RT-PCR equipment, as well as accessories for testing and sampling. The cost of our campaign is now reaching 28 million dollars. This is emergency assistance and the effort is going to continue and it's going to be even bigger.

In Africa, back in 2016, I believe, you set up Africa CDC - the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. We intend to be in closer touch with them in order to see what is needed in the future.

In the next few weeks, the IAEA will be launching ZODIAC, the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project. You also referred to VETLAB, which, for those not familiar with it, is an association of national veterinary diagnostic laboratories in African and Asian countries. We are going to ramp up this VETLAB network so that, through nuclear techniques, we can fight the zoonotic diseases that have been causing all the havoc – SARS, MERS, Zika, Chikungunya, Ebola and coronavirus as well.

About half of the labs in the VETLAB network are in Africa. We will ensure that help comes in a more integrated fashion. It is not about simply sending diagnostic equipment, washing our hands, checking the box and saying this is done. What we need is to set up an integrated and more comprehensive structure so that all countries in the world – but particularly in Africa - are better prepared for the next pandemic. Because believe you me - there's going to be a next one.

I would like to celebrate, and pay homage to, the spectacular responsibility with which African countries have continued to observe their non-proliferation commitments throughout this period. The IAEA, as you all know, has continued conducting inspections in very difficult circumstances and every Africa member state has been up to the task. We will continue providing the necessary assistance. We will continue working hand in hand with you through AFRA, our African regional cooperation agreement, and every other mechanism that we have, to make sure that your vision – the Agenda 2063 vision – is achieved. The Africa you want is also the Africa we want. It is a successful Africa.

We send our homage, from the IAEA, on Africa Day. Long live Africa!

Thank you very much.

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