AFRICA– The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced a €500 million (US$568.59 million) commitment to improving African health systems as part of a new initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU).

The joint EIB-WHO-EU statement came as the EU-African Union Summit got underway, with discussions about how to improve health systems in Africa and ramp up vaccine production.

While there have been some recent, significant steps to jump-start more African vaccine manufacturing and related R&D, such as the WHO-supported South African mRNA hub and a BioNTech modular vaccine manufacturing initiative announced just yesterday, much less attention has been focused on health systems, which serve as the backbone for service delivery.

And, according to recent data, African health systems, like those around the world, are still suffering setbacks in the delivery of other routine services as a result of the pandemic.

WHO is pleased to join forces with African partners, the European Investment Bank and the EU to marry this significant investment with WHO’s experience and know-how to build resilient health systems, and a healthier, safer, fairer future for Africa.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.


African public health investments

To initiate the partnership, The European Investment Bank will avail at least €500 million (US$568.59 million) to support health systems strengthening, with central focus on primary healthcare in Sub Saharan African countries.

This aims to mobilize at least €1 billion (US$1.14 billion) of investments, structured in co-operation with European Commission, and WHO, to support this initiative.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful demonstration that when health is at risk, everything is at risk.

Investing in health across Africa is therefore essential not just to promote and protect health, but also as a foundation for lifting people out of poverty and driving inclusive economic growth.

Africa suffers from inadequate basic services infrastructure, making the region vulnerable to epidemics.

Investments in good-quality basic services infrastructure is expected to improve the continent’s resilience to future epidemics, and stimulate short-run socio-economic growth.

To date, more than half of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In Africa, this figure stands at just 11 percent on average.

The new initiative aims to address both the pandemic-related and more systematic issues, said a WHO press statement on the EIB investment.

It noted that the investments would be focused on “restoring, expanding and sustaining access to essential health services and increasing financial risk protection; access to vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, devices and other health products; scaling innovative primary health care service delivery models and investing in a health workforce to deliver effective quality care.

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