AfDB to Support Quality Healthcare Infrastructure Across Africa

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) is to support African countries to have quality healthcare infrastructure and ensure the continent develops its pharmaceutical capacity as well as produce required vaccines within the continent.

The bank also wants developed countries to extend the period of debt repayment and forgiveness in such a way that the period of deferment continues to be helpful to African countries.

President of the bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, speaking on Africa’s Debt and Growth in an exclusive interview with CNN ahead of the launch of the bank’s African Economic Outlook 2021 today (Monday), said the bank projects a growth of 3.4 per cent in the year ahead, even as the continent faces a critical future unless there is a debt relief.

He pointed out that COVID-19-related spending has swollen many countries borrowing; and without more aid, 39 million Africans stand the risk of falling into extreme poverty this year. More than 30 million Africans are already in the extreme poverty bracket.

Adesina said Africa had never seen anything like this before. Growth last year was projected at -2.1 per cent. “That’s the lowest growth rate for 50 years in Africa. You don’t see the virus but the effect of it are just so mindboggling. The GDP of Africa went down by 175 billion dollars. Last year we had 30 million people fall into extreme poverty. This year, that trend continues with 39 million people going into extreme poverty, hunger and all that. It’s been just quite a lot.”

However, he said it was not all negative. “We projected that Africa will grow back. We projected 3.4 per cent back this year; but all that is conditional on two things: Access to vaccines and the issue of debts.

The AfDB President noted that the issue of vaccine was a big problem. You know so far 40.6 million vaccines have been delivered in Africa and people can’t even get a shot in the arm. That 40.6 million is only one per cent of what we need; talk less of having 60 per cent of herd immunity. So we are way off the mark on that.”

He emphasised the importance of Africa to have access to the vaccines and the need to have vaccine solidarity, pointing out that although those concerned are doing a great job, “the amounts are still in miniscule as far as we are concerned.

We need to actually have global solidarity on this; but beyond that, there must also have vaccine justice, making sure that everybody has the vaccine.”

Adesina cautioned that “If we deal with this pandemic in one part of the world and don’t deal with other parts, we are going back to square one. So, absolutely we must make sure that we ramp up access to vaccine. Africa needs it in quantity, it needs it on time and it needs it on an affordable price.”

On how long it would take to get herd immunity across Africa, Adesina said “the faster we get the vaccine, the better. You know, I just told you we got only one per cent right now in terms of people getting the jabs in their arms; and so to get a heard immunity, it would be at 60 per cent, so you are looking at, at least 840 million doses.

“I don’t see that happening in another year of two because at the slow pace of producing the vaccine and getting them out, it’s going to be very difficult. I’m quite concerned about that because the longer it takes for Africans to get vaccinated; you know Europe says you can’t travel if you do not have vaccine passports, so people are going to think that Africa is going to be the last to get access to vaccine. I don’t want that to happen.

“For us as AfDB, we are looking beyond the current situation. We are looking at medium and also long term. I can’t accept that 1.4 billion people have to be running from pillar to post looking for vaccines. We at AfDB have therefore decided that we are going to support Africa to have quality healthcare infrastructure and also make sure that it develops its own pharmaceutical capacity and also producing vaccines in Africa; not running from pillar to post.”