Coronavirus is expected to have a negative impact on economies throughout the continent

The African Union has appointed a team of special envoys to try to mobilise international support, to help the continent respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

AU chairman, Cyril Ramaphosa, insisted it was time to marshal resources to ensure the pandemic did not cause the collapse of the continent’s faltering economies.

“These institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments,” Mr Ramaphosa is reported to have said.

The team includes Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Chief Executive of Credit Suisse, Tidjane Thiam, Trevor Manuel, a former Finance Minister in South Africa, and Rwandan former head of the African Development Bank, economist Donald Kaberuka.

The appointment of Mr Thiam, who is from Ivory Coast, is intriguing after he quit as the boss of Credit Suisse in February, as the banking giant was mired in a spying scandal, after it emerged surveillance had been carried out on another executive.

In a statement, the AU says that the envoys will be tasked with “soliciting rapid and concrete support” pledged by the G20, the European Union and other financial institutions.

A global campaign to get rich countries to freeze payments on debts owed by poor countries and eventually cancel the debt is gaining momentum. The money could be diverted to fund efforts by developing countries to contain the spread of coronavirus.

New analysis released on Sunday by the Jubilee Debt Campaign shows that, 64 lower income governments spend more on external debt payments than they spend on healthcare.

Countries with the widest disparities between debt payments and health spending include Gambia, Ghana, Zambia, Laos, Lebanon and Pakistan