By Ndey Sowe
A press release from the African Development Bank Group ( AfDB) issued on Wednesday 9th September 2020, indicates that the Bank has approved a $27.33 million grant to ramp up the African Union’s (AU) Covid-19 Response Initiative.
The grant is also said to be geared towards boosting the AU’s efforts to mobilize a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approval is said to have come in the wake of a meeting of the extended bureau of the Conference of Heads of State and Governments with Africa’s private sector, on 22 April 2020, chaired by South Africa’s President Mister Cyril Ramaphosa as Chairperson of the AU, with the Bank’s President Akinwumi Adesina, who pledged strong support for the AU’s COVID-19 initiative.
According to the release, the support will complement various national and sub-regional operations financed by the Bank under its COVID-19 Response facility to support African countries to contain and mitigate the impacts of the global pandemic.
The AU Bureau’s meeting called for contributions to the AU’s COVID-19 Response Fund established by the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March 2020.
Speaking after the Board approval of this operation, ADB President Adesina said “with this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response in the face of COVID-19”.
He added that they 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 people; that the Bank’s grant financing will support Africa’s Centers 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.
Sourced from the ADF’s Regional Operations/Regional Public Goods envelope and the Transition Support Facility, these two grants will 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; build sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance; and ensure the availability of testing materials and personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots.
The release said the operation will also facilitate the collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa’s CDC’s emergency operations center; that at the beginning of February 2020, 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 World Health Organization 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% of completed COVID-19 tests to date.
Wambui Gichuri, Ag. Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development of the Bank remarked:
“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 against the pandemic and future outbreaks”.