HEALTH | AFRICA | KAGAME
The inaugural conference on public health in Africa (CPHIA 2021) kicked off on December 14 with a call to build and own new public health order as Africa for Africans.
The three-day virtual conference, which was officially opened by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, hosted Africa’s leaders, policymakers, researchers and scientists.
It was organized by the African Union (AU) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control.
President Kagame said Africa's public health systems need realignment urgently if the continent is to achieve a quick response-ability to future pandemics.
He told over 10,000 participants from 140 countries around the world that the pandemic served as a wake-up call for the continent to invest in resilient health systems, boost local manufacturing of vaccines, drugs, and testing kits besides improving the skills of local healthcare personnel.
“This has been a priority of the African Union for several years, but progress has not been fast enough. We cannot continue to rely on external funding for something so important to our future,” the president said.
He called for increased investment and renewed commitment by African governments in order to increase domestic financing to Health.
The conference comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has strained health systems globally, and forced previous donors of Africa to first take care of their own people and affairs.
This has starved Africa of health services especially limited access to vaccines and scientific innovations.
Less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10% of the adult population by September 30, while nearly 90% of high income-countries met this target.
By Dec 13, Rwanda has over 32% of the population vaccinated. In Uganda, 14.3% (6,525,371) have received one jab and 2.3 (1,287,700) are fully vaccinated. According to Africa CDC, only 7% of the African population is fully vaccinated, compared to UK’s 69,6 fully vaccinated and another 35.1% taking a third booster shot.
Kagame advised that, in the wake of new variants cropping up, inequity in access to Covid services and lack of products made in Africa by Africans, we need to invest in the quality of national health systems, build manufacturing capacity and develop closer co-operation as Africans.
He called on Africa to ratify the statute and speed up the implementation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) which will enable Africa to provide emergency use authorization for vaccines and pharmaceuticals without intermediaries.
AMA is a proposed specialised agency of AU, intended to facilitate the harmonisation of medical regulation throughout Africa.
It was designed along with the model of the European Medicines Agency, but with a wider scope covering medicines, traditional medicine, and medical devices.
It is the latest step in efforts by the AU to address a deficiency in drug production, overdependence on foreign agencies and challenges posed by counterfeit and substandard products.
The Treaty for its establishment was adopted in February 2019.
It requires 15 ratifications from AU member states to come into effect.
So far, it has been signed by 15 countries and ramified by 10. Uganda has neither signed nor ratified it.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of AU Commission, called this an opportunity to build a new public health order that can effectively fight against future health crises.
“We will create a new benchmark for collective efforts and participation as we advance public health in practice, education, training, and research in Africa. To achieve this new public health order, we must strengthen our partnerships and collaboration to further course our own future,” he said.