US President Joe Biden recently hosted a Global COVID-19 Summit at the 76th United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly brought together leaders in government, business, and philanthropy to commit to an equitable pandemic response and to build a stronger global pandemic preparedness architecture.
Speaking at the event, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation urged leaders to invest in Africa’s vaccine security. He explained that Africa already has the experience, expertise, and robust plans required to address the pandemic but requires support. She further called on leaders to focus on building Africa’s medical manufacturing capacity as part of a strategy for preparing for the next biological threat.
Earlier this year, the Mastercard Foundation announced that it would deploy Ksh. 143.5 billion ($1.3 billion) in partnership with Africa CDC to address vaccine inequity under a joint initiative dubbed Saving Lives and Livelihoods.
As part of the initiative, the Mastercard Foundation committed to enabling continental vaccine manufacturing by investing in the skills and knowledge required to drive manufacturing.
The African Union and Africa CDC have set a goal of ensuring that Africa is able to meet 60% of its vaccine demand through domestic production by 2040. In July, the African Union convened an inaugural meeting of the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing, a pan-African platform dedicated to driving this agenda.
The momentum for vaccine manufacturing in Africa is growing. Recently, BioNTech, the biotechnology company behind the development of the Pfizer vaccine announced that it is actively exploring the possibility of building mRNA manufacturing plants in Senegal and Rwanda. Presidents Kagame of Rwanda welcomed the milestone, terming it as a step towards making mRNA end-to-end vaccine manufacturing in Africa a reality.
Currently, less than 4%of Africa’s citizens are fully vaccinated. At the same time, the rise and spread of COVID-19 variants remains concerning to public health experts around the world.