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COVID-19: Focus on vaccine production, Akinwumi urges African leaders

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has again urged regional leaders to focus on vaccine production and access for the African continent as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to take lives and hurt economies and livelihoods.

Adesina made the call before the Bank Group’s 2021 Annual meetings, scheduled to open on Wednesday.

The meeting is expected to end on June 25..

“Africa needs solutions to help it navigate through the very challenging times posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But the rebound will depend on access to vaccines.”

The AfDB president said the bank would support the continent, as part of the vaccines plan of the African Union, through its plan to commit three billion dollars to develop the pharmaceutical industry in Africa.

He stressed that Africa should not be begging for vaccines, rather Africa should be producing vaccines.

Adesina also said the recent decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to issue special drawing rights (SDRs) provided a real opportunity to rebuild back better and greener.

He also noted the SDRs would tackle Africa’s debt challenges, more decisively.

“The G-7 Leaders’ summit last week gave the green light for allocating 100 billion dollars of SDRs to Africa.

“This will open the way for much-needed relief for Africa,” he noted.

African leaders, at a summit in Paris in May, called for the AfDB to receive SDRs on behalf of African countries, and to use them to on-lend to African public development banks.

Adesina said it would be important to allocate some of the funds to buy down Africa’s “very expensive debt” owed to private creditors that would engage with the international community.

The bank president, who proposed an African Financial Stability Mechanism to protect the continent against external shocks, said such a mechanism was critical.

“It will require that we mutualise our resources, avoid regional spillover effects, regionalise fiscal policy rules, develop homegrown reforms and debt-resolution approaches, and provide a regional safety net that will complement the global safety net of the International Monetary Fund.”

Speaking in insecurity, Adesina noted that terrorist actions affected countries all across the continent.

“These insecurity situations now pose the biggest risks to Africa’s development.

“We must now link security to investment, growth and development,” he said.

In the communiqué, the ECOWAS Heads of State welcomed the recent decision by G7 nations to provide additional vaccines to developing countries.

They encouraged the West Africa Health Organisation to intensify its efforts to mobilise partnerships to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.

The ECOWAS leaders, in the communiqué, commended the bank group for launching a facility to support African countries to address the challenges of the pandemic.

It also welcomed the bank’s support to the G5 Sahel countries, as they seek to strengthen national health systems, and for its support to the West Africa Health Organisation.

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