Following the recent wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Africa, as well as previous pandemics such as ebola, John Nkengasong, the Head of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that Africa’s ability to respond to future pandemics is dependent on how much investment governments on the continent make in health and education.
During the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings, he said this during a virtual session on healthcare. Along with Nkengasong, other health and disease experts participated in a knowledge session titled Building Africa’s Healthcare Defense System.
He said, “Ebola was a signal. We can also look at COVID-19 as an indication that something more severe will come if we do not strengthen our health defences.”
Nkengasong advocated for four steps to prepare for the next global health emergency. He supported workforce development, diagnostics manufacturing capacity improvement, and vaccine development and treatment capacity building.
At the meeting, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, emphasized WHO’s partnership with the AfDB and African governments.
According to her, WHO and its COVAX partners are leading the global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
She said, “This important public-private partnership is an important step to building the infrastructure and human resource capacity to contribute to closing the gap in access to vaccines on the continent.
“I see the African Development Bank playing a critical role on this journey alongside the African Union and the Africa CDC.”
She also stated that WHO was collaborating with a South African consortium comprised of corporations, universities, and the Africa CDC to establish a cutting-edge technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccine technology.
While speaking on the issue, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina stated, “We must give hope to the poor and vulnerable by ensuring that every African, regardless of income level, has access to quality healthcare, as well as health insurance and social protection.”
Former World Bank President Jim Kim stated that the continent needed a comprehensive approach that would mobilize community workers and improve infrastructure.
He said, “You cannot end extreme poverty if you are neglecting the investments in health and education that are so critical to economic growth.
“It’s not one thing. It’s the health workers, it’s hospital beds, it’s making sure that you can provide oxygen, and then it’s going to be production capacity for these vaccines, and this all has to happen very quickly.”
He added that the private sector had a role in building Africa’s healthcare defences.