African Development Bank Approves $27.33m to Ramp Up AU’s COVID-19 Response

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African Development Bank Headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
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In order to complement various national and sub-regional operations, African Development Bank’s Board of Directors Wednesday approved $27.33 million in grants to boost the efforts of the African Union (AU) to mobilise a continental response to curb the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The approval followed a meeting of the extended Bureau of the Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector on April 22 was chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and AU chairperson.

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The bank’s President, Akinwumi Adesina, had pledged strong support for AU’s COVID-19 initiative.

President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina

Speaking after the board’s approval, Adesina said: “With this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response in the face of COVID-19.

“Most importantly, we are sending a strong signal that collectively, the continent can address the pandemic, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent.”

Also speaking on the approval, the bank’s Acting Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Wambui Gichuri, said: “Our response today and support to the African Union is timely and will play a crucial role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to build resilience to this pandemic and future outbreaks.”

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AU Bureau meeting had called for contributions to the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund established by the AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March 2020.

The bank’s grant financing would support the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in providing technical assistance and building capacity for 37 African Development Fund (ADF) eligible countries, particularly the Transition States, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact.

ADF is the bank’s concessional window.

Sourced from ADF’s Regional Operations/Regional Public Goods envelope and the Transition Support Facility, these two grants would support the implementation 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 the availability of testing materials and personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots.

The operation would also facilitate collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations centre.

At the beginning of February 2020, only two reference laboratories – in Senegal and in South Africa – could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent.

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Africa CDC, working with governments, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and several development partners and public health institutes, have increased this capacity to 44 countries currently.

Despite this progress, Africa’s testing capacity remains low, with the 37 ADF-eligible countries accounting for only 40 per cent of completed COVID-19 tests to date.

Idowu Sowunmi