As the continent faces the possibility of a third wave of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) infection and emergence of new variants amid poor vaccine access, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has revealed its intention to invest heavily on Africa’s healthcare system and the manufacturing of vaccines locally.
Speaking at the banks 56th annual meetings, the AfDB group president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, pledged that the bank would strengthen support to African countries as they tackle the pandemic’s economic and health impacts, noting that only 51 per cent of public health facilities have basic water and sanitation, and only 31 per cent of healthcare facilities have electricity. The president underlined the fact that Africa imports 60-70 per cent of its pharmaceutical drugs.
“The lives of 1.2 billion people in Africa are at risk… we must give hope to the poor, the vulnerable, by ensuring that every African regardless of their income level, gets access to quality healthcare, as well as health insurance and social protection,” he said.
In his remarks, Ghana’s Finance Minister and chairperson of the African Development Bank’s board of governors, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, cautioned that Africa risked being left behind as a result of the pandemic and was “staring down the possibility of a lost decade, where its economic trajectory pulls further away from that of the rest of the world.” He said the African Development Bank should take a leading role in the continent’s recovery.
“Our bank, distinct in its role, has to be at the center of Africa’s build-back through targeted support to tackle Africa’s development challenges and lay the foundation to respond to future challenges,” Ofori-Atta said.
To date, less than 1 per cent of Africa’s adult population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, even as Africa confronts new variants and fast rising cases while the continent’s health and economic responses are hampered by tightening fiscal constraints.
The meetings comprised closed-door discussions between the governors (finance ministers and central bank governors of the regional and non-regional member countries of the bank) and knowledge events on healthcare, debt sustainability and climate change. In attendance were IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, World Trade Organization’s director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed. Former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who is president and chairperson of the Global Green Growth Institute was also among the panellists.
Green growth was high on the agenda. In a panel discussion, British member of parliament and Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 president, Alok Sharma, said it was vital that developed countries deliver on a $100 billion commitment to tackling climate change. CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), Patrick Verkooijen, lauded the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, a joint initiative between the GCA and the African Development Bank to mobilize $25 billion to accelerate climate change adaptation across Africa.
A statement by Gershwin Wanneburg of the AfDB’s communication and external relations department, said the three-day event, annual meetings, which ended at the weekend, included the 47th meeting of the governors of the African Development Fund, the bank’s concessional lending arm. Part of the proposal is that the bank, the continent’s only development finance institution with a AAA credit rating, act as a conduit for International Monetary Fund (IMF) special drawing rights, which it would then on-lend to African countries.
It said that for the second successive year, the bank’s 81 member countries met virtually, a poignant illustration of how the pandemic continues to disrupt daily life and work. Ghana will host the next annual meetings in 2022.