COVID-19 pandemic challenges enabled us discover our hidden strength which we can build on-Kagame

On 2 April 2021 at 06:55

President Paul Kagame has said that Africa needs to concert efforts to mobilize resources paving the way for manufacturing medical supplies on the continent.

The president also highlighted that COVID-19 pandemic has shown that building capacity of the health sector should be prioritized.

Kagame revealed this yesterday during a panel discussion organized by Tony Blair Institute for Global Change established by former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.

Dubbed ‘Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa: What It Takes and Why It Matters’, the panel discussion revolved around the impact of COVID-19 in Africa and how Africa can mobilize own resources to set up factories able to manufacture vaccines in a bid to fight against emerging global pandemics.

Kagame was participating alongside Tony Blair; Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Africa has 1.2 billion population accounting for 17% of World population. However, 99% of vaccines used on the continent are from abroad. Seven African countries only manufacture vaccines with Senegal being the sole country to export vaccines.

President Kagame said that COVID-19 pandemic has shown a huge gap in Africa’s health sector especially in the area of manufacturing medical supplies including vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic magnified some institutional weaknesses across Africa. But it also uncovered some hidden strength which we can build on. One of the big gaps is that Africa does not produce significant quantities of medical supplies and it has been said many times,” he said.

“We have been completely dependent on external sources, for tests, therapeutics, PPEs and now vaccines. The real solution is to prioritize manufacturing in Africa. The new Continental Free Trade Area for Africa makes this even more attractive for investors,” added Kagame.

The President highlighted that one of the hidden strengths that has made big difference over the past year, is the effectiveness of Africa’s continental institutions and commended Africa CDC for playing a major role in coordinating supply deliveries for every country as well as the African union’s special envoys including Ngozi for successfully pushing for debt service suspension for Africa.

Kagame said that the pandemic has set the whole world back in terms of development progress including Rwanda and inevitably the wider African continent and stressed need for strengthened health and education system.

“The world can’t go back to business as usual if we don’t use this opportunity to really strengthen our health and education systems, it would be a big loss. I think every one of us should be considering health spending from our resources as probably the number one priority because if we get that right, then it enables us to deal with other priorities,” he underscored.