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, which was chaired by the South Africa President, and current Chairperson, AU, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The AU Bureau meeting called for contributions to the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, established by the Chairperson, AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March this year.
Speaking during the Board’s approval of the operation, AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, said the financing package reaffirms the Bank’s commitment to a coordinated African response in the face of COVID-19.
According to him, about $26.03 million of the grant would help 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.
He noted that 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.
He maintained that the grant would also help to build sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance, ensure the availability of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, and facilitate the collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations centre.
In his remarks, Ag. Vice President, Agriculture and Human Development, Wambui Gichuri, said the Bank’s response and support to AU were timely and would play a crucial role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to build resilience to COVID-19 and future outbreaks.
He said the support would complement various national and sub-regional operations financed by AfDB under its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility to support African countries, contain, and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
As at February beginning, only two reference laboratories in Senegal and South Africa could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent. The Africa CDC, working with governments, the WHO, and several development partners and public health institutes, has 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.