African Development Bank has approved a sum of $27.4 million in grants to boost the African Union (AU)’s efforts to mobilise continental response to curb the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Speaking after the bank’s approval by its Board of Governors, President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi 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 in Africa, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent.”
The bulk of the bank’s grant financing for this operation, about $26.03 million, would help to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to respond to public health emergencies across the continent, while the balance of $1.37 million, would be a contribution to the AU COVID-19 Response Fund.
The two grants, from the bank’s concessional window, the African Development Fund, and the Transition Support Facility, 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 personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots and testing materials.
The operation would also facilitate collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations center.
The approval came on the heels of a meeting of the extended Bureau of the AU Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector on April 22, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who is the current chairperson of AU.
Adesina, who attended the meeting, pledged strong support for the AU COVID-19 initiative.
AU Bureau meeting called for contributions to the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund established by the AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March 2020.
At the beginning of February 2020, only two reference laboratories in Senegal and South Africa could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent.
Africa CDC, working with governments, World Health Organisation (WHO), and several development partners and public health institutes, have increased this capacity to 44 countries.
Despite this progress, Africa’s testing capacity remains at less than 600 per one million people compared to 50,000 in Europe.
“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,” said bank’s Acting Vice President, Agriculture and Human Development, Wambui Gichuri.
This support would complement various national and sub-regional operations financed by the African Development Bank under its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility to support African countries contain and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.