The African Development Bank (AfDB) said it is investment heavily building what it referred to as Health defense security system to cut across pharmaceuticals, vaccine manufacturing and quality healthcare infrastructure.
The AfDB President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina stated this while responding to the extend of the achievements to the bank’s covid-19 facility on health during the recently concluded Webinar of the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Ireland’s leading international affairs think tank.
Adesina regretted the unpreparedness of Africa during the outbreak of covid-19. He said the bank’s $10 billion facility helped in capacity building of health experts, relieved member countries financial burden while also ensuring that more people were tested.
“When covid-19 came, it was a real eye opener for me because Africa did not even have basic gloves, no access to protective equipment, no access to testing kits. There wasn’t even access to laboratories. It was only one or two that could actually test for covid-19 and if you look at the number of ICU bed, it was little.
“So Africa was totally not prepared when covid-19 actually hit the continent. But be that as it may, we actually responded by providing a crisis response facility of up to $10billion to support countries. Basically, the countries were not interested in the project. Everybody was interested in existential risk.
“We were able to use this facility to do three or four things. First was to rapidly build up the capacity of the medical staff; the technicians and medical doctors that could actually work across the countries. Second is the number of ICU beds in units went up dramatically because of the investment that we made.
“Now in term of the testing, a lot of money went to help countries to develop capacity for testing, way over 26million were able to be tested because of that support. But if there is anything that all of this did was it helped to reduce fiscal burdens on many countries that were facing potential high risk of their distress so it actually help them to expand their fiscal space that they badly needed in the midst of this crisis”, Adesina said.
The bank’s Chief frowned at a situation where the continent depends entirely on others for its basic healthcare response to pandemics and treatment of other diseases.
He said the AfDB is shoring up investments in some critical areas in the health sector that will enhance its independence in the wake of another pandemic.
“My view is that Africa must learn some deep lessons from this crisis and must basically have what I call Health Defense Security System, so that you’re not caught unprepared. This Health Defense System must have three areas: one is to build Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. Second is to build Africa’s vaccines manufacturing capacity, and third is to build a whole system of quality health infrastructure.
“The African development bank is working on all three fronts right now. So you take for example, Africa imports 70-80% of all its drugs and so it doesn’t make any sense. We’ve committed to spending $3billion in the next 10years in helping to revamp Africa’s pharmaceutical industries.
“Link to that is the issue of vaccines production. Secondly, our Board of Directors approved Quality Healthcare Strategy for Africa. So the bank will be investing enough in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare infrastructure. Our comparative advantage is in the area of infrastructure so we’ll basically be in that are.
He said the bank’s Board recently approved a foundation to sparehead the acquisition of technology that will enable Africa manufacture vaccines to meet it’s need instead of relying totally on the goodwill of other advanced continents.
“Recently, our Board of Directors approved what we call Africa Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, which is a new branded institution that is going to help Africa to access the appropriate technology that it needs; the know-how that it needs; the knowledge processes to be able to manufacture vaccines not just for covid-19 but for other diseases in Africa. We are now making sure that we build the blocks to ensure that Africa is in an effective position to respond to any health shock”, he said.
Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina who is often described as “Africa’s Optimist-in-Chief”, said when this is achieved, there will be more efficiency in handling life threatening pandemics while reducing the devastated effect on the continent.