In view of the financing of COVID-19 vaccines for Africa and the approach to addressing vaccine access, delivery and uptake in the continent, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, has said that the process has been difficult to navigate.
Speaking at a virtual meeting recently, she raised issues on the modalities, saying: “What exactly are the existing mechanisms for countries to access? We have had bits and pieces of information. But to date, this has not been as coordinated as hoped.”
From her Ministry’s perspective, she also said: “Understanding the urgency of the moment, there needs to be greater inclusion and involvement of Finance Ministers, as budgetary allocations need to be made and financing secured both locally and possibly internationally.”
Against the backdrop of real time challenges in preparing for receipt of COVID-19 vaccines, roll out, and the real time information and funding gaps, Ahmed urged that access to vaccine financing should be simplified, and an act of global solidarity should be to support Finance Ministries with the necessary capacity required to complete what could often be a complex and laborious bureaucratic process.
Ahmed called for proposals from banks on how countries could access finance mechanisms and support from other sources to help Ministries of Finance to easily and quickly apply for such funding, because, according to her, funding needs to be flexible to support purchase or delivery (health systems) and possible corporate social responsibility (CSR) from banks.
Collectively, the participants at the meeting had said that they were very grateful for the proposed over 20 percent COVAX donation to low and middle-income countries (LMICs). “But we need to fully protect our populations and also restart African economies. Therefore, 20 percent is not enough, and we must support African efforts to vaccinate at least 60 percent of our populations,” they said.
According to them, procurement through African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) is a very welcome initiative as this has “harnessed our joint negotiating power and reduces costs. We now ask multilaterals, banks and bilateral partners to join hands with us to ensure that we not only have vaccines, but are able to deliver all the way through to community level.”
Calling on high income countries to support the initiative of Africans helping Africa and also to consider the not inconsiderable costs of vaccine delivery, they therefore, welcomed the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA), which will go some way in providing local solutions to meeting the gaps in logistics and delivery across the continent, saying that not all countries have the capacity to deliver even the donated vaccines.
Mrs. Ahmed is calling for transparency and support to address gaps, noting that “COVID-19 is a multi-sectoral issue; it is a health crisis that has metamorphosed into an economic crisis and must be addressed with urgency collaboratively.” In her words: “We welcome this opportunity to dialogue with one another and also with many of our international partners and friends to find joint solutions to this pandemic and enable us recover and build back quickly. We look forward to a commitment of greater transparency of information for future planning across health and finance and potential mechanisms for such transparency and information sharing.”