By Temitope Ponle
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved 27.33 million dollars in grants to boost the African Union’s efforts to mobilise a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement from the AfDB, the approval is made by the organisation’s Board of Directors on Wednesday.
The approval followed a meeting of the extended Bureau of the Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector on April 22 April.
The meeting was chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa who is also the chairperson of the AU.
The meeting called for contributions to the AU’s COVID-19 Response Fund established by the AU Commission chairperson, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March.
Pledging support for the initiative, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said: “with this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response in the face of COVID-19.
“Most importantly, we are sending a strong signal that collectively, the continent can address the pandemic, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent.”
According to the statement, the bank’s grant financing will support the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in providing technical assistance and building capacity for 37 African Development Fund (ADF) eligible countries.
The assistance and capacity building are targeted particularly at the transition states to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact. The ADF is the Bank’s concessional window.
The grants are sourced from the ADF’s Regional Operations/Regional Public Goods envelope and the Transition Support Facility.
The statement noted that the two grants would support the implementation of Africa CDC’s COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan through strengthening surveillance at various points of entry (air, sea, and land) in African countries.
it said that the grants would also support the building of sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance, and ensure the availability of testing materials and personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots.
it said that the operation would also facilitate collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations center.
The statement added that at the beginning of February, only two reference laboratories in Senegal and in South Africa could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent. `
The Africa CDC, working with governments, the World Health Organisation and several development partners and public health institutes have increased this capacity to 44 countries currently.
The statement noted that in spite of the progress, Africa’s testing capacity remained low with the 37 ADF-eligible countries accounting for only 40 per cent of completed COVID-19 tests to date.
Ms Wambui Gichuri, Acting Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, AfDB said: “Our response today and support to the African Union is timely and will play a crucial role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to build resilience to this pandemic and future outbreaks.”
According to the statement, the support will complement various national and sub-regional operations financed by the AfDB under its COVID-19 Response Facility to support African countries to contain and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.