South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead fundraising for the Africa Epidemics Fund — a new pool of finance to assist countries in preparation and response to disease threats on the continent.
This is an African Union effort aimed at ensuring African nations are not left scrambling for resources to ensure health security of populations — as was the case at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Acting Director Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma said he expects this fund will give the pan-African public health agency “very much-needed relief” in accessing health system strengthening resources, “so that Africa is always ready.”
In February 2022, African heads of state agreed to create this fund, but there are a series of steps standing in the way before countries can tap into the finance. Africa CDC is crafting a governance framework for how the fund will be managed which will be presented to the AU’s executive council for approval in July during the midyear African Union summit.
“As soon as the framework has been adopted in July, then we will actively begin using the Africa Epidemics Fund — so in just a few months, we should be up and running fully,” Ouma said.
But they also need the funds in place, and for its long-term effectiveness, it must be sustainable finance. Ramaphosa committed “to engage with his peers on the continent” to raise funding, Ouma said, so that “governments take ownership of the Africa Epidemics Fund’s initial replenishment.”
The initiative is a part of a series of efforts the AU has taken to lessen its dependence on entities abroad during health emergencies and falls in line with Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order.
Continental ownership over this fund is critical. Devex recently reported that Africa CDC has applied to become an implementing entity of the World Bank’s Pandemic Fund, saying its exclusion from this role “considerably constrained” its ability to “play its AU-mandated role as convenor and coordinator of health security in Africa.”
The AU designated Ramaphosa as its “champion” for the COVID-19 response in 2021 and he has been lauded for his effectiveness in working to ensure African populations had access to COVID-19 vaccines. But he is also facing public scrutiny and calls for his resignation at home in connection to a scandal where large amounts of undeclared foreign currency was hidden at his farm and then subsequently stolen from a sofa.
This fund is an evolution of the AU’s COVID-19 Response Fund — which was launched by the AU in 2020, under Ramaphosa’s chairmanship, in the early days of the pandemic. It helped the continent to respond to the pandemic in a unified way by having the financial leverage to take on pooled procurement of health commodities, for example. The leftover resources in the COVID-19 fund will be put in this new fund, Ouma said.
The fund covers prevention, preparedness, response and resilience, Ouma said, adding this is to ensure that the “whole value chain of any health emergency” is resourced.