By Naomi Kitur

African governments and national parliaments should increase domestic financing for health in Africa, Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s President said at the first international Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2021).

At the event organized by the African Union (AU) and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Kagame stated that there is need for a renewed commitment by governments & national parliaments to increase domestic financing for health in Africa.

‘‘This has been a priority of the AU 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,’’ said Kagame.

He highlighted the need to invest in the quality of national health systems which will enhance the ability to implement critical health programs, including regular mass vaccination campaigns as reflected from the public’s trust.

Kagame said that the uncertainty around the new variant proves that the pandemic is far from over, pointing out that “building manufacturing capacity is the only way to ensure that Africa does not remain at the back of the queue for life-saving medicines.”

According to Africa CDC less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10 per cent of the adult population by September 30 2021, while nearly 90 per cent of high income-countries met this target.

As of December 3, only 7 per cent of the African population was fully vaccinated amidst a surge in new infections and the emergence of Omicron variant, initially discovered in South Africa, says Africa CDC

He also highlighted the importance of ratifying and speeding up the implementation of the African Medicine Agency (AMA).

“Once established, it will allow Africa to provide emergency use authorization for vaccines and pharmaceuticals without intermediaries,” he said.

AMA is a specialized agency of the AU intended to facilitate the harmonization of medical products regulation throughout the AU in order to improve access to quality, safe and efficacious medical products on the continent.

The agency is expected to have a wide scope covering medical products – medicines (including traditional and ‘modern’ ones), vaccines, blood and blood products, diagnostics and medical devices.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of AU Commission, said that despite the many challenges brought about by COVID-19, it has also created 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.