President Cyril Ramaphosa: Conference on Africa’s Leadership Role in Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access

24 Jun 2020

Opening Remarks by African Union President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Conference on Africa’s Leadership Role in Covid-19 Vaccine Development and Access 

Chairperson of the AU Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, 
Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, 
Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Allow me to express my profound appreciation to the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for convening this vital conference on Africa’s contribution to the development of safe and effective candidate vaccines for COVID-19. 
While the disease is still in its early stages in Africa, we are seeing infections rise as countries ease their lockdowns in the face of mounting social and economic pressures. 

As the African continent, we have acted decisively and we have acted together in developing a strategy to combat the pandemic. 

We have been innovative in addressing our resource constraints through, for example, the establishment of the AU COVID-19 Response Fund, the Africa Medical Supplies Platform and the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing. 

We need to be similarly innovative, focused and collaborative in our approach to the development and effective distribution of a vaccine. 

Success in developing and providing access to a safe vaccine for all Africans requires collaboration and cooperation of all member states. 

Through this meeting, which brings together African leaders, experts and other key stakeholders, we should produce a roadmap that involves efforts by Africans to produce the vaccine that are effective, safe and affordable. 
It is essential that there be significant local vaccine manufacturing in Africa. 

A portion of the GAVI vaccines, including for COVID and the Expanded Programme of Immunisation, should be sourced from African manufacturers. 

The challenges and efforts needed to rapidly develop, evaluate and produce such a vaccine at scale are enormous. 

As are the resources required to ensure sufficient coverage across a continent as vast and populous as ours. 

Therefore, we need to act with urgency. 

As African leaders, we need to join our efforts and negotiate with global donors to raise funds – and we need to mobilise resources in each of our countries and within the continent – to secure supply of the vaccine upfront. 

We need to start to plan now and to improve the infrastructure in each of our countries to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine. 

This includes accelerating regulatory approvals, strengthening supply chains and improving our ability to deliver the vaccine to the population. 

Given the depth of expertise and capability on this continent, we need to support the contribution of African scientists and health care professionals to the vaccine effort. 

This pandemic has forced African countries to revise their budgets to prioritise spending on health, including on infrastructure, logistics and the purchase of pharmaceuticals, medical products, equipment and materials. 

It has also underscored the essential value of maintaining funding for medical research even after the current health crisis has passed, so that we may be ready for the next pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic is not the last such tragedy that humanity will encounter. 

Let us be prepared and let us be ready to work towards a much more responsive and equitable medical system. 

We need to develop centres of excellence and robust health systems capable of withstanding any threat. 

We urgently need to introduce universal health coverage to ensure no one is unable to access health care when they need it.

By working together, by pooling our resources and by investing in innovation, we shall overcome this grave threat to the health and well-being of our people. 

With that, I wish you fruitful deliberations and successful outcomes. 

I thank you.

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