Okonjo-Iweala: WHO COVID-19 Special Envoy

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

As WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, Okonjo-Iweala, who is the Board Chairperson of GAVI Alliance, is to serve together with British business executive and former chief executive officer (CEO) of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, in the same capacity. The former minister and Witty, who was CEO of GlaxoSmithKline between 2008 and 2017, are expected to mobilise international commitment to the ACT Accelerator initiative.

The initiative is an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development, production, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 drugs, tests kits, and vaccines around the world.

Ghebreyesus explained, “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis that has been met with an unprecedented global response. Research and development have played a central role.

“Since January, WHO has been working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development – from developing animal models to clinical trial designs, and everything in between. We’ve also developed diagnostics that are being used all over the world. And we’re coordinating a global trial on the safety and efficacy of four therapeutics against COVID-19.

“The world needs these tools, and it needs them fast. Past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen. Today, WHO is proud to be uniting with many partners to launch the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or the ACT Accelerator. This is a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for COVID-19.

“Our shared commitment is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to defeat COVID-19. The ACT Accelerator brings together the combined power of several organisations to work with speed and scale. Each of us is doing great work, but we cannot work alone. We’re coming together to work in new ways to identify challenges and solutions together.

“We’re also grateful for the support of many world leaders, who you will hear from today. And I would especially like to thank Sir Andrew Witty and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for agreeing to act as Special Envoys for the ACT Accelerator. We are facing a common threat, which we can only defeat with a common approach.”

This is the fourth international appointment given to Okonjo-Iweala in less than two months.

About a fortnight ago, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, appointed Okonjo-Iweala to serve as a member of her newly established External Advisory Group.

Prior to that, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa had appointed her as member of the country’s Economic Advisory Council. In addition, Okonjo-Iweala was named as one of the four Special Envoys the African Union (AU) appointed recently to mobilise international support for its efforts toward addressing the coronavirus pandemic.