Ahead of an expected surge in cases of COVID-19 in Africa, the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have launched a public-private partnership with the AfroChampions Initiative, known as the Africa COVID-19 Response Fund.
The partnership seeks to raise an initial $150 million for immediate needs to prevent transmission and up to $400 million to support sustainable medical response to the pandemic by pooling the resources required for the procurement of medical supplies and commodities; supporting the deployment of rapid responders across the continent as well as providing socio-economic support to the most vulnerable populations in Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the AU Chairperson and President of South Africa commended the effort and welcomed the creation of the joint AU-Africa CDC-AfroChampions partnership.
He noted that; “While we continue to welcome expertise and feedback from regions already engaged in the fight against the coronavirus, we must also establish an autonomous strike force.”
The Africa COVID-19 Response Fund is a financial instrument to mobilise and manage funds from the private sector in Africa, and other well-wishers with the support of several African banks.
The Fund will operate under the supervision of the African Union through its public health institution Africa CDC, which will determine priority interventions and actions.
In addition to medical response, part of the funds raised will be allocated for supporting the most fragile communities, in the least developed African countries, whose socio-economic activities have been impacted significantly by measures taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
“There is a race against time to prepare and protect our communities. Africa must fight this as one and no country on our continent should be left behind. We must coordinate efforts of Member States, African Union agencies, World Health Organization, and other partners to ensure synergy and minimise duplication. We must also promote evidence-based public health practice for surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control of COVID-19,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
An advisory board consisting of public and private sector representatives was established to oversee management of the Fund, together with an experts’ panel, both composed of committed parties with experience in fund-raising and public sensitization.
“The time has come for Africa to deploy forward-looking measures. We must start from now to strengthen our capacities in diagnostic tests, drug manufacturing and health infrastructure,” said Paulo Gomes, Vice Chair of the AfroChampions Initiative and former Executive Director at the World Bank, who has joined the advisory board.
“Not only can the African private sector contribute to this fund, it should also consider other actions like prevention campaigns in companies, redeployment of production lines towards equipment and products needed against the pandemic, optimisation of transport and connectivity infrastructure to support health emergencies.”
Several African countries have already provided seed funding to the Fund including South Africa, DR Congo, Egypt, Kenya and Mali.