The COVID-19 health crisis has hit the developing world the hardest. Non-Aligned Movement, being the largest collective voice of the developing world, has expressed its concern over the rapid spread of the COVID-19, which poses a major challenge to humanity. On May 4, 2020, a NAM Summit was held in the format of a videoconference in a bid to boost coordination among member states in fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat also participated in the virtual Summit and said that the African countries were ready for cooperation in the fight against the virus. The African Union (AU) has launched a number of initiatives in cooperation the African Development Bank (AfDB) to mitigate the adverse health and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a leading development finance institution, AfDB has made significant contributions to the COVID-19 response in Africa through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility approved by the Boards of Directors in April 2020. In September 2020, the AfDB approved $27.33 million in grants to boost the AU’s efforts to mobilize a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim of the grant was to support the implementation of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC’s) COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan 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 testing materials and personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots.

On November 19, 2020, the, AfDB approved a grant of US$27.33 million to the Africa CDC. The grant agreement was signed in Addis Ababa by Amira Elfadil Mohammed, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission and Dr Abdul Kamara, Ethiopia Country Manager, African Development Bank. Awarded under three key components – technical assistance and capacity building (US$19.33 million), institutional support (US$7 million) and contribution to the African Union COVID-19 Response Fund (US$ 1 million) – the grant is to support implementation of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak. It will enable Africa CDC to provide technical assistance and capacity building support in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating its impact in 37 African Development Fund eligible African Union Member States. The Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19, was endorsed by African Ministers of Health on 22 February 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and approved by the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government on 26 March 2020. Driven by the principles of cooperation, coordination, collaboration and communication, the goal of the continental strategy is to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19 infection in African Union Member States and minimize social disruption and the economic consequences of COVID-19.

The partnership with the AfDB is unique as a pan-African institution supporting socioeconomic and development initiatives across Africa. The grant award will significantly enhance the capacity of Africa CDC to provide more support to eligible Member States and will provide a boost to its initiatives. In June 2020, Africa CDC rolled out the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT), an initiative that has enabled it to bring partners together as a collective to expand testing, contact tracing and treatment of COVID-19 cases across the continent. “Indeed, this grant will be a big boost to Africa CDC efforts in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa including strengthening its own capacity to address public health issues in the continent”, said Dr Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director of Africa CDC.

“The fight against COVID-19 is far from being over”, said Amira Elfadil Mohammed. “This generous financial support from the African Development Bank will help strengthen the capacity of Africa CDC to respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics. It will help improve the capacity of National Public Health Institutes of Member States, support evidence-based epidemic intelligence, strengthen infection prevention and control, and support the Regional Economic Communities”.

“The expected outcome from the Bank’s collaboration with the Africa Union is a stronger Africa CDC able to rapidly coordinate emergency assistance across Africa, particularly in low income member countries, beyond the current COVID-19 response, working in collaboration with other development partners, including those in the private sector”, said Dr Kamara.

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