By Anthony Areh
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved $27.4 million grant to boost the African Union’s (AU) efforts to mobilise continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
AfDB said in a statement that the approval came following April 22 meeting of extended Bureau of AU Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector, chaired by South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the AU.
It said AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, who attended the meeting, pledged strong support for the AU COVID-19 initiative.
Speaking after the Board approval of this operation, Adesina said: “With this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response in the face of COVID-19.
“Most importantly, we are sending a strong signal that collectively, the continent can address the pandemic in Africa, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent.”
The bank explained that the bulk of the Bank’s grant financing for this operation, about 26.03 million dollars, would help to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to respond to public health emergencies across the continent.
According to AfDB, the balance of 1.37 million dollars will be a contribution to the AU COVID-19 Response Fund.
It noted that the two grants, from the Bank’s concessional window, the African Development Fund, and the Transition Support Facility, would support the implementation of Africa CDC’s COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan.
It explained that this would be done through strengthening surveillance at various points of entry (air, sea, and land) in African countries;
“Building sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance and ensuring the availability of personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots and testing materials.
“The operation will also facilitate collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations center.
“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 WHO, and several development partners and public health institutes, have increased this capacity to 44 countries”.