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What Africa CDC's new public health order means for Africa and Africans

Article-What Africa CDC's new public health order means for Africa and Africans

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The new public health order will build a framework to enable access to finance and investments.

The global ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on all sectors remains a part of history that cannot be denied or erased. Among other crises, it had a significant impact on the already overburdened health systems, especially in Africa.  

The pandemic showed how vulnerabilities in health systems can have profound implications for health, economic progress, and social cohesion. In the wake of the pandemic, we learned the lesson that it was not enough to contain and mitigate the spread of an epidemic or pandemic, however, strengthening the capacity of health systems to respond swiftly and effectively is considered a priority as well. This built a case for the necessity of the new public health order by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the public health agency of the African Union to develop guidelines to help the continent achieve health security for sustainable development. 

The new public health order is supported by the foundation of equity, sustainable investment in health systems, innovation, self-reliance, local ownership and leadership. This forms a strong force to diminish the threats posed by health security challenges. This Africa CDC’s road map centers around five goals: strong African public health institutions, expanding manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, investment in the health workforce, increased domestic health spending, and respectful partnerships. 

A typical example of the above-mentioned partnership is the US$1.5 billion Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC. This was set in motion “by listening, understanding, and then responding to real needs and to prioritises,” as stated by Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. The initiative has purchased vaccines for over 65 million people in Africa and is enabling the vaccination of millions more. It is also designed to drive health workforce development and strengthen the Africa CDC to ensure long-term health security. 

The Africa CDC's new public health order will build a framework to enable access to finance and investments in local vaccine manufacturing that can enhance vaccine production infrastructure and skills through collaborative partnerships and joint ventures. It will potentially make room to  improve the regionalisation and integration of vaccine markets, establish African vaccine manufacturers as important global suppliers, enhance preparedness and respond to health threats with the aim to strengthen health security across the continent. 

All these will translate in significant impact on individual Africans by improving health outcomes, promoting economic growth, increasing access to healthcare, improving preparedness for pandemics and health emergencies, and promoting equity and social justice. 

Stakeholders in and outside Africa can play an important role supporting the present plans for the new public health order by engaging with local stakeholders, understanding local contexts and cultures, and working collaboratively to develop sustainable solutions that meet the needs of African populations. 

Technology transfer is an effective way to build local manufacturing capacity for vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Stakeholders can support technology transfer by providing access to patents, intellectual property, technical assistance and training on the basis of mutual agreements. 

Sharing knowledge and expertise can also help African countries to build their own capacity. Considerations around providing financial support through investments in African health systems, grants or donations are other options to explore.  

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