The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved $27.4 million in grants to spice up the African Union’s (AU) efforts to mobilize a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approval comes on the heels of a gathering of the extended Bureau of the Union’s Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector as at mid-April, chaired by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current chairperson of the AU. The AfDB’s President, Akinwumi Adesina, who was in attendance, vowed strong support for the AU COVID-19 initiative.
The AU office meeting involved offerings to the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund set up by the AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March 2020.
“With this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response within the face of COVID-19. Most significantly, we are sending a robust signal that collectively, the continent can address the pandemic in Africa, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent,” said AfDB’s Adesina, while commenting following the panel’s approval.
Majority of AfDB’s grant financing for this initiative, which stands at about $26.03 million, will help fortify the institutional capacity of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to reply to public health emergencies across the continent, while the balance of $1.37 million, are going to be a contribution to the AU COVID-19 Response Fund.
The two grants, from the bank’s concessional window, which are the African Development Fund and the Transition Support Facility, will support the execution of Africa CDC’s COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan through strengthening surveillance at various points of entry (air, sea, and land) in African countries; building sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance; and ensuring to make available private protective apparatus for frontline workers set out in hotspots and testing materials. The function also will make the possible collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations centre.
Before this time, in February 2020, only two reference laboratories in South Africa and Senegal could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent. The Africa CDC, working with governments, the WHO, and several other development partners and public health institutes, has increased this capacity to 44 countries. Despite this progress, Africa’s testing capacity remains at but 600 per a million people compared to 50,000 in Europe.
“Our response today and support to the African Union is timely and can play an important role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to create resilience to the present pandemic and future outbreaks,” said Wambui Gichuri, AfDB acting vice-chairman, agriculture and human development.
The finance support will accompany various national and sub-regional operations financed by the African Development Bank under its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility to support African countries control and moderate the impacts of the pandemic.