36th AU Session Renews Commitment Towards Strengthening Africa’s Health Systems
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
During the 36th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly, the Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), seeks to work towards the reduction of communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Africa.
It was noted that the pandemic was raging worldwide but had an acute impact across Africa. The spread of the disease affected every dimension of African society, and AIDS lowered the life expectancy of adults on average by 20 years.
In 2001, the Heads of State of Africa met in a special summit in Abuja explicitly devoted to addressing the unprecedented challenges of HIV-related disease, TB, and other related infectious diseases. This session, which came soon after the first UN Security Council Resolution in 2000, acknowledged the tremendous impact the spread of HIV was having on the continent not only as a health risk but also acknowledged the economic and security implications across the continent.
In 2013, African Heads of State and Government (HoSG) reaffirmed their commitment to the AIDS, TB and Malaria response at the Abuja+12 Special Summit. The declaration of the summit of the African Union on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria committed to accelerating the mobilization of domestic resources to strengthen health systems; ensure strategies were in place for diversified, balanced and sustainable financing for health, in particular for AIDS, TB and Malaria and targeted poverty elimination strategies and social protection programmes that integrate HIV-related diseases, TB and Malaria for all; particularly for vulnerable populations.
The massive impacts of twin pandemics of COVID-19 and HIV-related diseases have highlighted what remains the largest threat to the Africa Union Agenda 2063 – Africa We Want. Africa’s experience attempting to control COVID-19 and HIV-related diseases (and the previous experience with the West African Ebola outbreak) exemplifies how huge gaps remain in the underlying strength of its health systems. The AIDS epidemic is still not over, nor is the continent on track to achieve an AIDS-free Africa by 2030.
The key objectives now are:
- Sustaining political commitments – requiring every African Head of State to commit to setting quantitative targets for HIV control (and tracking progress), developing a roadmap to strengthening health systems for pandemic prevention in their country, and reforming policies that prevent vulnerable populations from receiving treatment;
- Secure new financial commitments – engaging international donors (bilateral, multilateral, philanthropies) to identify new pools of capital and fund existing pledges while setting a GDP target for national health spending on HIV-related diseases and pandemic preparedness;
- Acknowledge the role of the African private sector and strengthen the public-private partnership – outlining major regional initiatives on (a) health financing (for example, low-interest loans), (b) health infrastructure (for example, supply chains, facilities, data/digital tools), and (c) health manufacturing (for example diagnostics, treatments, vaccines) and by aligning national and international companies, investors, and governments to those areas to accelerate progress;
- Elevate community, young people and civil society voices – raising the profile of advocates, PLHIV, community organizations, faith leaders and the youth who have been champions for the HIV/AIDS response and social and behavioural change (SBC) in their country.
Earlier, the Africa CDC encouraged African Union (AU) Member States to actively participate in the Pandemic Fund activities and submit their Expressions of Interest (EOIs) by the set date of 24 February 2023. The Africa CDC has made itself available to support AU Member States and other regional entities as they develop and submit their EOIs and proposals.
The Africa CDC is an observer on the Board of the Pandemic Fund. The Africa CDC is also an autonomous institution of the AU charged with the mandate of coordinating Africa’s disease prevention and control. Africa CDC is the convening platform for AU Member States on health security matters. Africa CDC is convinced that the New Public Health Order brings the changes necessary for improved global preparedness and response to disease threats and health emergencies. One key aspect is regional strategies and action based on mandates of regional institutions like the Africa CDC.
As an integral part of the African approach to pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, the African Union and Africa CDC initiated Africa’s New Public Health Order, which aims to set the course for how Africa deals with its public health realities. The New Public Health Order is built on five pillars, four of which all relate to the high-impact priorities set out in the first round call of the Pandemic Fund, namely surveillance and early warning, laboratory systems and health workforce.
The consideration and adoption of the Declaration on Health Financing and Sustaining Action to End AIDS and related Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases.
In addition to leaders from the AU member states, there are regional and international organizations in attendance. The summit will adopt a series of protocols aimed at accelerating the full implementation of health-related questions in Africa. The adopted protocols relate to Agenda 2063, which is Africa’s development blueprint for achieving inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development over a 50-year period (2013 to 2063).
Russian COVID-19 Vaccines Disappear from Africa’s Radar
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Until recently, Africa has not been high on Russia’s policy agenda. African leaders have to understand that Russia, for the past three decades, Africa was at the bottom of its policy agenda. After the end of the Soviet era, Russia has focused broadly on the United States and Europe, dreaming of becoming part of Europe, part of the configuration of the Global North. The low economic presence of Russia from 1991 until 2019 was a testament to the fact that Africa was at the bottom of its priority list. Of course, the October 2019 summit was symbolic, but after that, Russia has left most of the bilateral agreements undelivered across Africa.
With its “special military operation” on Ukraine that necessitated the imposition of stringent sanctions from the United States, European Union and their allies, the United Nations Security Council, mounting pressure on Russia since February 24 2022, pushes Russia to begin soliciting aggressively for support in Africa. Last July, in an article posted to its official website, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote: “The development of a comprehensive partnership with African countries remains among top priorities of Russia’s foreign policy; Moscow is open to its further build-up multifaceted relations with Africa.”
In his Op-Ed article, Lavrov argues: “We have been rebuilding our positions for many years now. The Africans are reciprocating. They are interested in having us. It is good to see that our African friends have a similar understanding with Russia.” Lavrov, however, informed about broadening African issues “in the new version of Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept against the background of the waning of the Western direction” and this will objectively increase the share of the African direction in the work of the Foreign Ministry.
Lavrov consistently displays his passion for historical references. Soviet support for struggles for political independence and against colonialism should be laid to rest in the archives. The best way to fight neo-colonialism is to demonstrate by investing in those competitive sectors and depart away from hyperbolic rhetoric on an endless list of sectors. In practical terms, we rather face today’s development challenges and what is in store for the future generation. Africa today does not need anti-Western slogans; Africa simply needs external players who would passionately and genuinely invest in the critical economic sectors. The fundamental fact is that Africa is making efforts to transform its economy to create employment, modern agriculture, and industrialize the continent, especially with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Despite criticisms, China has built an exemplary distinctive economic power in Africa. Besides China, Africa is largely benefiting from the European Union and Western aid flows and economic and trade ties. Compared, Russia plays very little role in Africa’s infrastructure, agriculture and industry and makes little effort to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Our monitoring shows that the Russian business community hardly pays attention to the significance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people.
Lavrov’s efforts toward building non-Western ties in these crucial times are highly commendable, especially with Africa. But, the highly respected Minister easily and most times forgot the fact that during these two-three years of a global pandemic, the coronavirus that engulfed the planet, in every corner of the world, Africa was desperately looking for vaccines. Health authorities are still warning that Covid-19 has not been completely faced throughout the world.
Quartz, a reputable global media, reported early this year that “as of the end of 2022, about a quarter of the population of African countries has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest figures shared by Africa CDC. The coverage varies drastically depending on the country. In Liberia, for instance, nearly 80% of the population is fully vaccinated, while only 34% is in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Congo, Sudan, Senegal, and Madagascar all have vaccination rates below 10%.
In his briefing, Ouma said the target for Africa remains to vaccinate 70% of the population. That goal, however, was set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the overall population. These numbers are about to change – and not because of an increase in vaccinations. Africa CDC acting director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma announced in a video briefing on December 22 that it will modify the way it reports vaccination rates. Rather than reporting coverage of the overall population, it will only report vaccinations of the eligible populations aged 12 or more.
Due to delays in international vaccine deliveries, Africa lags behind the rest of the world in Covid vaccination rates and is the only continent where less than 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. Currently, just more than 800 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Africa, or 80% of the total received. About a third of the vaccinations have been made with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, followed by Pfizer (22%), AstraZeneca (17%), China’s Sinopharm (15%) and Sinovac (7%).
Several reports monitored by this author show that Russia has played a minimal role in the entire health sector in Africa. With the Covid-19 vaccination, Russia randomly sprinkled a few thousand as humanitarian assistance among its “Soviet friends”, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Nevertheless, the worse was Russia’s sudden failure to supply the 300 million vaccines through the African Union (AU), especially during the times of health crisis.
An authoritative policy report presented in November 2021 titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’ and prepared by 25 Russian policy experts headed by Sergei A. Karaganov noted explicitly the failure to supply Sputnik vaccines to the African Union. The report criticized Russia’s current policy and lukewarm approach towards Africa.
“In several ways, Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations. The supply of Russian-made vaccines to Africa is an example. Having concluded contracts for the supply of Sputnik V to a number of African states, Russian suppliers failed to meet contractual obligations on time,” says the report in part.
The coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Worth noting that Russia claims that it was the first to find a coronavirus cure. The World Health Organization (WHO), until today, has not certified Russia’s vaccines, though. On the other hand, all the vaccines that have been registered in Russia – Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, CoviVac and EpiVacCorona – are produced in large quantities by Russian pharmaceutical companies and are currently used for vaccination.
Director of the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Gintsburg has several times highlighted aspects of vaccine production and marketing. He noted to raise the attractiveness of the vaccines on foreign markets, including countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, tasked to engage in marketing the vaccines abroad, got messed up, especially in Africa. Of course, it took steps and speedily registered the vaccines in more than 20 African countries but terribly failed on delivery deadlines. Worse was the Russian Direct Investment Fund supplied, at exorbitant prices, through middlemen in the Arab Emirates to a number of African countries. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has, however, held a series of African Foreign Ministers during this Covid-19 period and desperate moment reiterated to assist with direct supplies to Africa. That is Russia, considered a reliable partner for Africa.
The above thoughts on the part of the Covid-19 business offered the reasons why Russia absolutely refused to join and be part of the Covax facility, which acts as a global collective bargaining initiative to secure vaccine doses for countries who signed up, including those are self-financing their purchases, as well as assistance from donors for poorer developing countries. The first vaccines purchased through Covax were indeed destined to reach Africa. That was, monitored by this author, some 88.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines distributed to 47 countries, including Africa, during the first half of 2021. This same year, during the virtual meeting of G7 leaders, the European Union announced it had donated a further 500 million euros to the COVAX program. The World Bank also committed $12 billion as concessional loans to assist African countries in accessing foreign vaccines.
That is not all from several reports monitored. In April 2022, writing under the headline: “How Russia’s Hollow Humanitarian Hurt Its Vaccine Diplomacy in Africa,” – the co-authors, Matthew T. Page and Paul Stronski, both noted in 2020 that Russia touted deliveries of medical and protective supplies to several African countries, while the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine offered hopes that African countries would soon be able to launch large-scale immunization drives. Russian efforts to promote Sputnik V in Africa have floundered for a variety of reasons, including regulatory worries, production and logistical shortfalls, bureaucratic inertia, and even sticker shock. There is, however, another key factor behind Moscow’s failed vaccine diplomacy: its traditionally diminutive post-Soviet development presence on the continent.
Compared to Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even many foundations, Russia has provided a tiny share of international development assistance to African countries since the end of the Cold War. Unlike India and Cuba, it has provided scanty medical assistance to – or investment in – African countries.
Suppose Russia wants to be influential on the continent. In that case, African political and economic leaders should demand more of Moscow, not simply settle for the symbolic diplomatic engagements or agreements at which the Russian leadership excels. Indeed, Africa has not ranked high on the Russian foreign policy agenda for much of the past three decades, getting barely a mention in the country’s key security documents except as either a partner in an emerging multipolar world or a source of instability.
Indeed the time has come for African leaders to rally together to ensure that no effort is spared in facilitating and supporting the building of large-scale vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent. The African Vaccine Manufacturing Summit held in April 2021 was an encouraging start. Focus needs to be on developing real vaccine R&D capacity, which must necessarily lead to health products. This requires substantial investment and a long-term commitment. In a similar vein, under the aegis of the African Union, leaders have to begin looking for inside solutions rather than base hopes on these geopolitical games, great external powers seeking only support for their peculiar or parochial interests.
Understandably, while making efforts to maintain and expand its presence in Africa, Russia simply lacks the capability to deliver on its various promises in Africa. Surely, African countries have to begin to re-evaluate their relationship with Russia. African leaders should not expect anything tangible from meetings, conferences and summits. Since the first Russia-Africa summit held in 2019, very little has been achieved. Given the stringent sanctions imposed following Putin’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, it is even more improbable that Moscow would commit adequate financial resources to invest in economic sectors.
In stark contrast to key global players, for instance, the United States, China and the European Union and many others, Russia obviously has limitations. Notwithstanding that, for Russia to regain a part of its Soviet-era influence, it has to address its policy approach, this time trying to shift towards new paradigms – implementing some of the decade-old pledges and promises, and those bilateral agreements; secondly to promote development-oriented policies and how to make these strategic efforts more practical, more consistent, more effective and most admirably result-oriented with African countries.
Fidson Shops For N3.5bn from Series 4 Commercial Paper Issuance
By Dipo Olowookere
A leading manufacturer of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products, Fidson Healthcare Plc, is planning to get about N3.5 billion from the capital market.
The firm, which operates a World Health Organisation (WHO) compliant state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, is issuing series 4 commercial paper under its N10 billion commercial paper issuance programme.
Subscription for the exercise started on Friday, March 10, 2023, and will close on Thursday, March 16, 2023.
According to details of the sales, the least of the commercial paper of Fidson investors can purchase is N5 million.
Business Post reports that the tranche of this exercise is 268 days, with a yield of 14.50 per cent.
Funds from this series 4 commercial paper sales would be used to support the company’s short-term working capital and funding requirement.
Fidson is one of the top players in the Nigerian health sector and has maintained an organic growth strategy by investing in research, extensive distribution channels, and product innovation.
The organisation also associates with global partners to deliver high-quality products to its customers and insists on these same values across its entire value chain.
Fidson commenced operations on March 1, 1995, as a local distributor of pharmaceutical products and barely a year after, it began importing its brand of finished medicines, introducing Ciprotab and Peflotab brands of quinolones to the market.
By July 2002, the firm set up its first local manufacturing facility and later became the first company in sub-Saharan Africa to manufacture Antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs in March 2005.
In February 2007, Fidson set up a second manufacturing facility and ceded the former manufacturing facility to an international joint venture project, which led to the setting up of Ecomed Pharma Limited. In November of the same year, the company received the NIS ISO 9001:2000 certification for its Quality Management System from the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON).
Expanding its business further, the company was listed on the floor of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited to become a publicly quoted company in 2008 and completed its 3rd factory (FPL) in the same year.
Further positioning itself as a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer in Nigeria, Fidson completed its 4th factory, an ultra-modern WHO-compliant plant in Ota, Ogun State, in 2016 and increased its capacity to manufacture more products across various therapeutic categories.
LASUTH Performs Free Cataract Surgeries for Ojokoro Residents
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Residents of the Ojokoro community in the Ifako/Ijaiye area of Lagos State have benefitted from the free cataract surgeries performed by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in collaboration with a group known as Friends of LASUTH.
This is part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative aimed at giving back to society and an offshoot of a free medical outreach the hospital held earlier in the year.
Over 500 beneficiaries were screened during the outreach, and 48 people were diagnosed with cataracts and scheduled for free operations at LASUTH.
The Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Professor Adetokunbo Fabamwo, noted that the tertiary health facility was set up to offer advanced medical care, and over the years, the government of Lagos State has invested a lot of funds in LASUTH to achieve this vision.
The CMD further stated that the objective behind organizing the free cataract surgery programme was the need to give back to society, explaining that the hospital management deliberately chose eye disorders, among other conditions, because cataract is one of the main causes of blindness.
The Head of the Ophthalmology Department at LASUTH, Dr Rosemary Ngwu, said the essence of the surgery was to complete the medical process the hospital started in February.
She said cataract is one of the causes of blindness if left untreated, stressing that regular eye screening is one of the ways to curb the disease.
The medical practitioner also noted that the beneficiaries expressed their excitement at being chosen for the surgery, which is at no cost.
One of the beneficiaries, Mr Akanji Adetunji, thanked the state government and the hospital for the gesture, saying “the focus on healthcare in the state has improved and I am fortunate to be a beneficiary.”
Latest News on Business Post
- SERAP Takes Buhari, NBC to Court over Threats March 20, 2023
- CAF President Tasks Infantino on African Football Growth March 20, 2023
- Data Shows Opportunities for Streaming Services in Romance Films March 20, 2023
- NDLEA Seizes 1.2m Opioid Pills, Arrests Afro-Europe Cartel Suspects March 20, 2023
- Mouka Advocates Healthy Sleep as Essential to Well-being March 18, 2023
- NASD OTC Exchange Closes 0.36% Higher as Trading Volume Surges March 18, 2023
- Naira Appreciates at Black Market, Peer-to-Peer, I&E March 18, 2023
- Oil Market Settles Lower in Toughest Week Yet March 18, 2023
- Stock Market Closes Flat Amid Strong Investor Sentiment March 18, 2023
- Currency Slump in West Africa Triggers Demand for Dollar Assets March 17, 2023