COTE D’IVOIRE – The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has cautioned against Africa’s dependence on foreign countries for healthcare support, stating that Africa cannot outsource its health to other parts of the world.
He said this during a virtual panel session on closing the health gap at the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations.
The Future Investment Initiative Institute hosted the virtual session, which featured the AfDB president, World Trade Organization director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Global Infrastructure Partners’ vice-chairman and partner Jim Yong Kim.
“Global leaders, in a sideline event on health during the United Nations General Assembly, voiced the urgent need to scale up Covid-19 vaccine production and access in the wake of a pandemic that has caused unprecedented economic loss and bankrupted healthcare systems in Africa,” a press release from the summit read.
According to the statement, the Covid-19 pandemic hit African economies badly, with the Gross Domestic Product contracting by 2.1 per cent in 2020, falling by 6.1 percentage points from the pre-Covid forecasts.
It added that only a few countries have met their commitment to devote at least 15 per cent of their national budget to improving and maintaining adequate healthcare systems.
Adesina, who emphasized the need for Africa to build its manufacturing and healthcare capacity, said “Africa cannot outsource its health to the rest of the world. We’ve got to build Africa’s indigenous manufacturing capacity – we need to secure ourselves.”
Adesina restated that AfDB is committing US$3bn to the development of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry over the next 10 years as part of initial steps toward building a long-term pharmaceutical capacity across the continent.
Okonjo-Iweala affirmed her commitment to ensuring that countries with excess vaccines donate to COVAX, which is an initiative led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation; the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, and the World Health Organization.
She also said that she is committed to ensuring that richer countries swap places with poorer countries on the waiting list for vaccines.
Okonjo-Iweala said, “We are taking action. Supply chains for vaccines are very complicated, making sure supply chains flow. We need to lift restrictions so that manufacturers can get what they need.
“Vaccine nationalism doesn’t pay. We have to let technology be transferred. We can’t be selfish in this pandemic. Lives are at stake.”