President Paul Kagame has made a case for increased health sector financing among African countries noting that it would serve to curb vulnerabilities exhibited during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kagame was speaking at a virtual event organized by the Tony Blair Institute on the institution’s new report; ‘Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa: What It Takes and Why It Matters’.
Other panelists included Tony Blair; Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of World Trade Organisation and moderated by Awo Ablo the Executive Director for External Relations at Tony Blair Institute.
Speaking at the session, Kagame said that the pandemic had magnified some institutional weaknesses across Africa and at the same time uncovered some hidden strengths that the continent can build on.
Among the gaps that are currently visible as a result of the pandemic includes limitations in production of medical supplies.
“One of the big gaps is that Africa does not produce significant quantities of medical supplies. The real solution is to prioritize manufacturing in Africa. The new Continental Free Trade Area, African, makes this even more attractive for investors,” he said.
Going forward, he said that the continent cannot go back to business as usual either and should use the experiences to strengthen healthcare and education systems.
Kagame who is spearheading the African Union’s Domestic Health Financing efforts called on countries to prioritize the health sector as it would enable the continent to deal with future challenges.
“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… We need healthy populations, we need healthy institutions to be able to do whatever else we need to do that is a priority,” he said.
Speaking at the session Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that increasing financing on aspects such as surveillance, prevention and preparedness would in the long run be less expenditure compared to response as is currently the case.
She said that increased financing on health care would move in to curb key vulnerabilities.
Tony Blair said that Africa which has more than 1 billion people has been found to have somewhat fragile health systems which have left the continent only able to meet less than 1 per cent of its vaccine needs.
Blair added that the current inequalities and disturbances in Covid-19 vaccine international supply chains have created challenges in countries’ ability to protect their populations and resume normalcy.
He called on countries to move to address the dependency on others.
The report argued that going forward, the continent should set goals of transitioning the continent from dependency towards greater self-sufficiency and security of medical supplies.