Coronavirus: AU, African private sector launch COVID-19 Response Fund

Ahead of an expected surge in cases of COVID-19 in Africa, the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have launched a public-private partnership with the AfroChampions Initiative, known as the Africa COVID-19 Response Fund.

The partnership aims to raise an initial US$ 150 million for immediate needs to prevent transmission and up to US$ 400 million to support sustainable medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic by pooling the resources required for the procurement of medical supplies and commodities; supporting the deployment of rapid responders across the continent as well as providing socio-economic support to the most vulnerable populations in Africa.

The Africa COVID-19 Response Fund is a financial instrument to mobilize and manage funds from the private sector in Africa, and other well-wishers with the support of several African banks. The Fund will operate under the supervision of the African Union through its public health institution Africa CDC, which will determine priority interventions and actions.

Priority actions will include the purchase and distribution of key equipment for diagnosis, treatment, and protection of caregivers, as well as implementing a broad awareness campaign on prevention among African populations.

In addition to the medical response, part of the funds raised will be allocated for supporting the most fragile communities, in the least developed African countries, whose socio-economic activities have been impacted significantly by measures taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

“There is a race against time to prepare and protect our communities. Africa must fight this as one and no country on our continent should be left behind. We must coordinate efforts of Member States, African Union agencies, the World Health Organization, and other partners to ensure synergy and minimize duplication. We must also promote evidence-based public health practice for surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control of COVID-19,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

An advisory board consisting of public and private sector representatives has been established to oversee the management of the Fund, together with an experts panel, both composed of committed parties with experience in fund-raising and public sensitization.  

The time has come for Africa to deploy forward-looking measures. The continent must start from now to strengthen its capacities in diagnostic tests, drug manufacturing, and health infrastructure. Not only can the African private sector contribute to this fund, but it should also consider other actions like prevention campaigns in companies, redeployment of production lines towards equipment and products needed against the pandemic, optimization of transport and connectivity infrastructure to support health emergencies  Several African countries have already provided seed funding to the Fund including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Kenya, and Mali. Private sector partners that have already signed up for this initiative include Africa Health Business, Global Infectious Disease Services, SpeakUpAfrica or Talamus Health Incorporated; African banks such as Ecobank, Standard Bank and Equity Bank; private equity funds such as RH managers; philanthropic organizations like the Africa Public Health Foundation; private leaders from the UNDP African Influencers for Development Group.