African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina has said Africa cannot outsource its health to the rest of the world as he underscores the need for building manufacturing capacity on the continent.
Participating in a sideline event on health during the United Nations General Assembly, Adesina’s called for the building of Africa’s manufacturing and healthcare capacity to shockproof the continent from future pandemics.
His call was amplified by World Trade Organisation director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Global Infrastructure Partners vice chairman and partner Jim Yong Kim. All three took part in a panel that looked at balancing the scales of global health and the consequences of the novel coronavirus.
“Africa cannot outsource its health to the rest of the world. We’ve got to build Africa’s indigenous manufacturing capacity.…we need to secure ourselves,” Adesina said addressing what he said was one of the biggest lessons from the pandemic – the need for Africa to rely on itself.
Asked in turn by CNN anchor Richard Quest, who moderated the session, what they as world leaders were doing to close the dangerous health gap, Okonjo-Iweala said her top two priorities were to get countries who have an excess of vaccines to donate them to COVAX – the initiative led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi and the World Health Organisation. The second, she said, was to “get richer countries to swap places with poorer countries on the waiting list for vaccines”.
In the long term, Okonjo-Iweala said, it was about building Africa’s capacity to manufacture. “We need to decentralise manufacturing,” she said.
Kim decried the lack of leadership in the present global health crisis.
“Where is the coalition that will say this is an unprecedented challenge?.…What we now need is leadership…We had a similar problem treating people with HIV…we can solve them for the vaccine shortage,” Kim said.
Adesina said the AfDB would contribute US$3bn to the development of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry over the next 10 years.
“What is needed in the long term is building Africa’s pharmaceutical capacity,” he said.
Standing in the way of that capacity are the various restrictions and trade barriers, intellectual property rights, and lack of raw materials, which are making it even harder for African countries to get into the game.
“We are taking action…supply chains for vaccines are very complicated…making sure supply chains flow… We need to lift restrictions so that manufacturers can get what they need,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “Vaccine nationalism doesn’t pay… We’ve got to let technology be transferred. We can’t be selfish in this pandemic. Lives are at stake.”
The 76th General Assembly of the UN takes place this year against the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit African economies badly, despite the overall lower death toll on the continent.
GDP contracted by 2.1%, falling by 6.1 percentage points from the pre-Covid forecasts. In addition, only a handful of countries have met their commitment to devote at least 15 % of their national budget lines to improving and maintaining adequate healthcare systems.