ETHIOPIA – Canadian foundation, Mastercard, has announced that it will deploy $1.3 billion over the next three years in partnership with the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and hasten the economic recovery of the continent.

This initiative builds on an earlier collaboration between Mastercard and Africa CDC to expand access to testing kits and enhance surveillance capacity in Africa. Through the Foundation’s support, the Africa CDC’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) deployed nearly two million COVID-19 tests and more than 12,000 trained health care workers and rapid responders across Africa. In total, the PACT has enabled over 47 million COVID-19 tests across the continent.

The Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative is purposed to acquire vaccines for at least 50 million people, support the delivery of vaccinations across the continent, lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa through a focus on human capital development, and to strengthen the Africa CDC.

By the end of 2022, the African union targets to have vaccinated 60% of its population, comprising of about 750 million people. Currently, less than 25 of the population has been immunized.

Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, said the continent’s ability to achieve a 60 percent inoculation target against COVID-19 by 2022 hinges on harnessing resources and expertise from the private sector and foundations.

He also noted that, “Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it’s the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future.”

The new partnership builds on the efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility (COVAX), the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and the global community to expand access to vaccines across Africa. The number of vaccines available to Africa represents a small portion of the global supply and the financial costs to purchase, deliver, and administer vaccines remain significant.

Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. “In the process, this initiative will catalyze work opportunities in the health sector and beyond as part of our Young Africa Works strategy,” she added.

In 2020, Africa faced its first economic recession in 25 years due to the pandemic. The African Development Bank has warned that COVID-19 could reverse hard-won gains in poverty reduction over the past two decades and drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021. Widespread vaccination is recognized as being critical to the economic recovery of African countries.