By Kemi Yesufu
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Professor Arthur Mutambara has called for the implementation of the 2001 Abuja Declaration agreed to by African leaders to fund healthcare with a minimum of 15 percent of countries’ annual budget.
On 27 April 2001, African governments made an historic pledge to allocate at least 15% of their annual budgets to the health sector. This pledge became known as the Abuja Declaration.
Mutambara a professor of Robotics and Mechatronics further stated the need for Africa to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its people by funding research and development for the production of vaccines within the continent.
Speaking during a webinar with the topic, ‘Vaccine Research and Development in Africa: Perspectives From Academia’, ahead of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) launch of its Independent Taskforce On Equitable and Universal Access To Vaccines and Vaccination, he said a key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is the urgent need for Africa to stop depending on others for funding for healthcare.
He opined that with Africa representing a $1.3 billion market for vaccines with potential of the market value rising to $5 billion by 2030, the continent can attract investments and useful partnerships to break the cycle of waiting on international bodies to fund vaccination and other health programmes.
He said: “African governments must incentivise and create an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in research and development, to invest in the manufacture of vaccine and roll out.
“African governments must clearly articulate and demonstrate the internal investment for business players, so that the private sector can come in and put in money foe vaccine research and development, manufacture and roll out of vaccination. This is hosw we can break the over independence on the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund and the West in general”.
Also speaking on the funding the production of vaccines by Africans for Africans, renown International Economics and Development expert , Professor Sylvain Boko, said the private sector can raise the estimated $250 to make continental vaccine production a reality .
Boko said: “ During the meeting of the taskforce held yesterday (Saturday), it was said that from perspectives of global dimensions, you only need $250 to $300 million to start production of vaccines.
“What people tell us in Africa is that this is an insurmountable figure to raise in order to start the research and development, as well as the production of vaccines.
“But if you consider this, raising $250 million by the whole of Africa, when you look at the resources in the private sector controls in Nigeria, South-Africa, Ghana, Kenya and other parts of Africa, can we not raise N250 million’’?
Speaking on behalf of the private sector, President of the Pan-African Manufacturers Association, Mr. Ahmed Mansur said Africans must lead initiatives to solve the challenges within the continent.
He stated that the people of the continent need to solve the problem of Africa not having the capacity to manufacture vaccines and many other products on a large scale.
For another panellist, Dr. Phillip Onyebujoh, he identified Africa as having strategic advantages more than any other part of the world for successfully combining the business of vaccine production with the provision of healthcare services for the wellbeing of the people.
Onyebujoh a health systems expert reiterated the position of earlier speakers who described Africa as being able to attract the needed investments, due to the positive economic projections the continent has received.
He equally opined that the private sector can fund the Africa’s ambitions of achieving vaccine security .
On his part, Chief Medical Director of the Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital, Prof Godwin Bazuaye, stated the preparedness of his institution to operate the ‘centre of excellence’ to be involved in research and development in collaboration with the CoDA taskforce on equitable vaccination.
Igbibedion University Okada, Edo State is hosting the Monday June 21, official launch of the CoDA Independent Taskforce On Equitable and Universal Access To Vaccines and Vaccination.