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China Strengthening its Diplomacy in Africa’s Health Sector

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CDC Africa Headquarters Africa's Health Sector

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

China and Africa will always be a community of a shared future. At least, its policy is strategically focused on addressing sustainable development, and China has indeed proved, over the years, in many aspects of dealing with Africa.

Results are seen especially with all kinds of infrastructure that have been built these years. And, of course, the appreciable results reflect the level of commitment to the action plans arrived at triannual summits.

In its white paper says that China’s approach involves basic principles including upholding a people-oriented approach in pursuing practical cooperation with efficiency. In its cooperation with Africa, it gives priority to the interests and wellbeing of the peoples of Africa and works to their benefit.

 China is committed to fully honouring the promises it has made to its African friends. Developing solidarity and cooperation with African countries has been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy. In the fight for coronavirus, China will deliver one billion vaccines to Africa – with a population of 1.3 billion. This indicates further its efforts at promoting cooperation in basic healthcare delivery.

With the outbreak of coronavirus in December 2019, China was the first country in the world to convene an anti-pandemic summit with Africa. It has further called on international partners to increase support to Africa, while itself providing at various times medicament including vaccines to many African countries.

Quite recently during the last summit held in November, China’s President Xi Jinping elaborated on important policies on advancing China-Africa cooperation and strengthening cooperation amid the pandemic. In order to support, he promised one billion doses. It has made deliveries in many African countries.

China actively honours its commitment to make vaccines a global public good. At the time when Chinese vaccines had just reached the market and domestic supply was tight, China began to supply vaccines to Africa in support of its battle against the pandemic.

By November 2021, China had provided over 1.7 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to more than 110 countries and organizations, including 50 African countries and the AU Commission, and is striving to provide an aggregate total of – two billion doses by the end of 2021. In addition, it donated US$100 million to COVAX, which aims at ensuring all countries have access to a safe, effective vaccine.

COVAX is a global programme coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI – the Vaccine Alliance, the Center for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations and many others. Producing countries are free to donate vaccines through COVAX.

Chinese firms are actively engaging in joint vaccine production in Africa with local firms, helping countries, in accordance with their wishes, to realize localized vaccine production. According to reports, Chinese firms have started localized production in Egypt and signed cooperative agreements with Morocco and Algeria.

After the Covid-19 struck, in coordination with local governments, enterprises and social organizations, China has provided emergency anti-pandemic supplies – including 120 batches of nucleic test reagents, protective gears, masks, eye protectors and ventilators – to 53 African countries and the AU based on their respective needs, with these emergency supplies reaching almost all areas across the continent. It has, in addition, sent medical teams to a number of countries on the continent.

China has also actively shared its anti-epidemic experience with African countries and dispatched anti-epidemic medical expert groups or short-term anti-epidemic medical teams to 17 African countries to fight the epidemic alongside local people.

It has pushed for the earlier start of the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a project assisted by China. This shows another huge step in undertaking the building of the headquarters of the Africa CDC located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At the 2018 Beijing Summit and the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China – Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, the Government of China expressed its commitment to support the building of the Africa CDC HQ. African leaders welcomed this with appreciation and committed to supporting the realization of the project.

Located in the African Village, south of Addis Ababa, the new site covers an area of 90,000m2 with a total construction area of nearly 40,000m2. When completed the building will include an emergency operation centre, a data centre, a laboratory, a resource centre, briefing rooms, a training centre, a conference centre, offices, and expatriate apartments, all to be constructed, furnished and equipped by the Government of China.

In accordance with a number of agreements concluded between the AU and the Government of China, the AU Commission and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China signed the Implementation Agreement on the Africa CDC HQ’s building project in July 2020.

The headquarters building is expected to become one of the best-equipped centres for disease control in Africa, allowing the Africa CDC to play its role as the technical institution coordinating disease prevention, surveillance and control in the continent, in partnership with the national public health institutes and ministries of health of Member States.

H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohamed, Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development and H.E. Ambassador Liu Yuxi, Head of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to Ethiopia attended the ceremony on behalf of the African Union Commission and the Government of the People’s Republic of China respectively.

Speaking at the ceremony, Commissioner Elfadil said the completion of the first phase marks 45 per cent of the total construction. “While celebrating our success in reaching 45% of total project completion within an impressive record of 348 days. The African Union would like to express its sincere appreciation to the Government of the People Republic of China for funding the whole project, and to all the stakeholders who have played their respective roles and tirelessly assisted the team in achieving its target,” she said.

In his remarks, H.E. Ambassador Liu Yuxi underlined the close China-Africa partnership. “As we speak, the Covid-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the globe. However, it cannot prevent China-Africa cooperation from growing in depth and substance. China and Africa stand together with mutual assistance, team up amid difficulties and treat each other wholeheartedly.”

He added that the Africa CDC building itself is a manifestation of beneficial and practical work for the African people. China will proceed to try its utmost to assist African countries in responding to the pandemic and restoring economic and social development. By combating Covid-19, China and Africa have withstood severe challenges, helping each other and fighting side by side to defeat the pandemic through solidarity and cooperation.

China is participating in the African Vaccine Manufacturing Partnership (AVMP) launched by the African Union in April 2021. This Continental Vaccine Manufacturing Vision is “to ensure that Africa has timely access to vaccines to protect public health security, by establishing a sustainable vaccine development and manufacturing ecosystem in Africa.”

It is also a splendid testimony of China unflinching support for Africa. “Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations,” Xi said later in one of his speeches, and emphasizing the principles of China’s Africa policy as pursuing the greater good and shared interests.

China and Africa jointly launched an Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development this year. It emphasizes that all countries should carry out cooperation with Africa on the premise of respecting Africa’s sovereignty and listening to Africa’s voice, give full play to their respective advantages and pool efforts in an effective way, and do more beneficial and practical work for the well-being of the African people.

China and Africa are working closely. At the initiative of both China and African countries, FOCAC was inaugurated at its first Ministerial Conference in Beijing in October 2000, with the goals of responding to the challenges emerging from economic globalization and seeking common development. FOCAC now has 55 members, comprising China, the 53 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China, and the AU Commission.

Beyond the borders of Africa, China expresses and appeals for upscaling the development and improving the basic needs of the underprivileged peoples in Africa. While attending the General Debate of the 76th Session of The United Nations General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative, calling on the international community to accelerate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Health

New Health Reform Bill to Reposition Sector—Osinbajo

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new health reform bill

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigeria’s Vice President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, has disclosed that a new health reform bill to reposition the country’s health sector for improved delivery of set objectives would be in the works soon.

Speaking at the closing of the two-day Presidential Health Reform Committee Retreat in Abuja, he noted that this is pending a full committee report review and a complete policy document appraisal.

“The next steps now are to finalize subcommittee reports for the review of the full committee and produce a full committee report to guide the drafting of the policy document. And then draft a health reform Bill,” Mr Osinbajo stated.

The Vice President then thanked the committee members for their hard work and dedication and reaffirmed the Buhari Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the reform objectives are achieved.

The Vice President emphasized that the federal government’s ongoing efforts to reposition Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system must include collaboration among different levels of government and the private sector to ensure the effective implementation of reforms that will cater to the needs of Nigerians in the 21st century.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in September 2021, approved the establishment of a Health Sector Reform Committee and appointed the Vice President as Chair of the team, which was officially inaugurated by the VP in January 2022.

The Health Minister, Dr Osagie Ehanire, also a member of the panel, was in attendance at the retreat and also Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.

Other members of the committee present at the 2-day retreat included the Emir of Shonga, Haliru Yahaya; DG, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh; DG, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr Tunde Irukera; DG, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa; Former Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Professor Akin Abayomi; and Lead Coordinator, Presidential Health Reform Committee, Dr Nicholas Audifferen.

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Health

Stakeholders Form Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products

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Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products CACPP

By Dipo Olowookere

Some critical stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria have come together to form a group aimed at frustrating and subsequently chasing makers of fake and substandard drugs out of business.

The group, known as the Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products (CACPP), already has the support of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the major drug manufacturers in the country, distributors, retailers, and others.

At the unveiling of the coalition in Lagos on Monday, the convener of CACPP, Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, who is also the chief executive of CMC Connect, disclosed that the initiative was borne out of the desire to rid the country of counterfeit drugs and save lives of consumers, who take drugs to get better.

“It is borne out of the desire to take a firmer stand against counterfeit pharmaceutical products in Nigeria through engagement and advocacy, with hope to kick off an intense national advocacy campaign against counterfeit pharmaceutical products,” he stated.

He stated that the group has mapped out strategies to achieve these goals, assuring that the coalition was focused and would not be derailed, no matter what.

According to him, CACPP found out that people consume counterfeit pharmaceutical products due to ignorance, poverty, and illiteracy.

While the West Africa Country Manager of Pfizer, Mr Olayinka Subair, agrees with this point, he stressed that, “Counterfeit medicines don’t cure any disease, rather they put patients’ health at risk because of their contents,” noting that fake drugs “ultimately impede the Nigerian healthcare system as lives are lost and medical conditions worsened due to this cankerworm. It is not an individual’s battle; it requires collective effort.”

“Nigerians need to champion the anti-counterfeit cause, especially as regards healthcare. We need to join hands together because there is no shortcut to health. Due process must be followed to get the best results.

“Unlike commodities, fake drugs are life-threatening. This means patients should only buy prescribed medicines from accredited pharmacies and not quacks or roadside vendors,” he stressed.

Also, the Deputy Director of the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit Substandard Regulated Products Investigation and Enforcement at NAFDAC, Mrs Florence Uba, who represented the acting director-general of the agency, assured the group of the full support of the regulatory agency.

However, she emphasised that NAFDAC would not entertain any favouritism as any fake drug maker caught would be severely dealt with, no matter the connection.

In his presentation, the president of the Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NiroPharm), Mr Femi Soremekun, stated that, “In recent years, the fight against counterfeit pharmaceutical products has taken new dimensions due to the global influx of counterfeiting syndicates, it is like a race against time for pharmaceutical companies – the cost to our collective health and economies is enormous.”

“Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have been perplexed as to how best to nip the challenges in the bud. The challenges are overwhelming owing to the sophistication of the activities of counterfeiters.

“Combating counterfeit pharmaceutical products is a herculean task, one that requires strong collaborations between government agencies and key stakeholders because of the impact,” he added.

It was agreed by the stakeholders present at the event yesterday that to combat the illicit trade of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, there is a strong need for collaboration and must look beyond the surface, which is most times in-ward.

Business Post reports that other organisations which threw their full weight behind CACPP include the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN), the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and the Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (PWDAN), among others.

Also, a prominent Nigerian actor and filmmaker, Mr Ayo Badmus, has backed the initiative as its brand ambassador.

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Health

Stanbic IBTC Gives Better Conditions for Healthcare Loan

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healthcare loan

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Healthcare practitioners intending to get short-term funding support to expand their operations can now do so with better terms from Stanbic IBTC Bank.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, introduced a package called Healthcare Short-term Loan, which many stakeholders in the health industry have accessed.

In order to make it easier for practitioners to access the credit facility for an improved healthcare sector in the country, the lender has upgraded its short-term loan solution within the healthcare value chain.

This upgrade ensures a flexible repayment period, with an affordable interest rate and zero collateral to enable sector players to access better financing and achieve optimal service delivery.

The healthcare loan, which now offers a longer tenor of 12 months, affordable interest rate and zero collateral, will foster more investment in the sector and enhance strategic relationships to generate new businesses.

Speaking at the Medic West Africa Conference, the Head of Specialized Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, noted that effective collaboration between financial institutions and healthcare organizations is key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.

She advised financial institutions to be more intentional about complementing the government’s efforts, saying, “Stanbic IBTC has a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare industry and its intricacies. This knowledge inspires us to continue to design innovative yet affordable solutions to boost healthcare businesses across the country.”

According to her, despite Nigeria being Africa’s largest healthcare market, challenges in the health sector include inadequate healthcare infrastructure and insufficient financing.

“Stanbic IBTC is passionate about driving change, hence our partnership with key stakeholders in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance.

“We achieve this by offering flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers and strategically partnering with the players in the healthcare ecosystem,” she said.

“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for businesses in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and ultimately grow their healthcare businesses,” Ms Ike-Okoli added.

The Head of Coverage, Commercial Clients at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Babatunde Akindele, also stated that the newly improved healthcare short-term loan is a necessary investment.

“Healthcare is a basic need that everyone should access easily. The pandemic has increased the pressure on the health sector by revealing the urgent need to expand healthcare facilities. Stanbic IBTC has taken yet another step in the right direction to improve healthcare infrastructure and enable qualitative service delivery, which will restore the hope of many Nigerians,” he said.

The growth of the Nigerian healthcare sector rests on impactful and innovative finance solutions positioned to create a level playing field for businesses to thrive. Stanbic IBTC has said it remains committed to blazing the trail in this regard.

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