The African continent has demonstrated decisive leadership throughout its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging lessons learned from previous outbreaks and acting quickly to limit the impact of the virus. It remains a glaring fact that the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses and inequities in the global health ecosystem. This was clearly demonstrated in the unequal access to diagnostics and other medical commodities, including vaccines for African countries when they became available.
Amid these challenges, the critical coordination at the continental level, led by the African Union through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has reinforced the importance of regional health security mechanisms to address global health issues in an agile and contextualized manner. Several unprecedented continental mechanisms were created and operationalized in the last three years, such as the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative, Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT), and the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative (PAVM). The Africa CDC Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative (SLL), a 1.5bn dollar intervention in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation is a milestone in driving Africa’s vaccine uptake across the continent to date.
Despite this well-coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, unequal access to medical supplies remains a challenge for Africa. This disparity is partly driven by the fact that only 1 per cent of the continent’s human vaccine needs are manufactured locally, which created significant supply inaccessibility and delays for the African continent at the height of the pandemic.
However, there has been a new paradigm shift in the vaccine landscape in the last two years for Africa, where several African countries, including Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and most recently Rwanda have taken concrete steps toward the process of manufacturing vaccine on the continent.
To harness the current momentum, with heightened priority to address deeper structural public health deficiencies at national, regional and global levels, the African Union through Africa CDC launched a framework for action, “A New Public Health Order for Africa”in 2021 with five strategic pillars:
- Strengthened public health institutions
- Strengthened public health workforce
- Expanded manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics
- Increased domestic resources for health security, and
- Respectful and action-oriented partnerships.
This framework for action seeks to strengthen the self-sufficiency of African public health systems and to address the current global imbalances by augmenting Africa’s collective voice on global health matters and further enhancing the continent’s efficiency in preparedness and response to disease threats.
Current analysis shows that investing in African health systems is essential to achieve Africa’s own development ambitions as outlined in Agenda 2063, and an equally important and strategic investment for global health and economic security.
Read more: https://africacdc.org/news-item/call-to-action-africas-new-public-health-order/ (Call to action issued 21 Sept. 2022)