“Ebola was a signal,” John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told participants in a virtual session on healthcare held during the African Development Bank’s 2021 Annual Meetings.
“We can also look at Covid-19 as an indicationthat something more severe will come if we do not strengthen our health defenses.”
The Annual Meetings are unfolding against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has exposed the lack of access to primary healthcare for most Africans, as well as overreliance on imported medicines.
Nkengasong, along with other health and disease experts, spoke in a knowledge session titled Building Africa’s Healthcare Defense System. He urged four steps: workforce development; manufacturing capacity of diagnostics, vaccines and treatment; institution building and partnerships with the private sector.
The Africa CDC has been instrumental in the continent’sfight against Covid-19Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa,emphasized WHO’s partnership with the African Development Bank and regional governments.
WHO and its partners in COVAX, the worldwide initiative aimed at at equitable access toCovid-19 vaccines, are also cooperating with a South African consortium including corporations,universities and the Africa CDC to set up a pioneering technology transfer hub for mRNAvaccine technology.
“This important public private partnership is an important step to building the infrastructure andhuman resource capacity to contribute to closing the gap in access to vaccines on the continent,”Moeti said.
“I see the African Development Bank playing a critical role on this journey alongsidethe African Union and the African CDC.”African Development Bank President Akinwumi A Adesina underscored the Bank’s engagementwith the issue. “We must give hope to the poor and the vulnerable, by ensuring that everyAfrican, regardless of their income level, gets access to quality health care, as well as healthinsurance and social protection,” he said.
James Scriven, CEO of IDB Invest, the Inter-American Development Bank’s private sectorinstitution, offered lessons from Latin America, which he described as the fastest growing regionfor generic pharmaceuticals. He said: “Now is the right time to strengthen pharma manufacturingcapability in emerging countries, and support business models that can expand the reach andsupply of medicines and healthcare.”
Former World Bank president Jim Kim, a vice chairman and partner with Global InfrastructurePartners, said a holistic approach that would harness community workers and improvedinfrastructure would be crucial. He called on the private sector to be a partner in buildingAfrica’s healthcare defenses.
“You cannot end extreme poverty if you are neglecting the investments in health and educationthat are so critical to economic growth,” said Kim. He urged a return to basics, adding: “It’s notone thing.
It’s the health workers, it’s hospital beds, it’s making sure that you can provideoxygen, and then it’s going to be production capacity for these vaccines, and this all has tohappen very quickly.”