How Africa copes with the attack on lives and livelihoods brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak will depend largely on how quickly stakeholders organise a public health response. The quality of the collaboration between public and private sector actors will determine the speed of that action. It is common knowledge that most African countries have weak public health systems and import up to 80 percent of the continent’s pharmaceutical needs.
With the Covid-19 pandemic now confirmed in all 55 African states, the magnitude of the challenge is like nothing recorded in modern history. It has cast the spotlight on the capacity of healthcare systems across the continent to cope with an outbreak of disease.The dependence of most African nations on imported pharma products is more significant today because many foreign trade partners have closed their borders as part of measures to contain the spread of the disease. No time to waste
As things stand today, the local capacity of many countries is grossly insufficient to address the needs for diagnostic tests and other healthcare products and equipment. The challenge to import supplies is exacerbated by the fact that many developed countries are also in a race to acquire similar medical supplies. Consequently, the scope for Africa to receive external help is limited and may be expensive in the short term.
This means there is clearly pressing need to not only upgrade local capacity to manufacture diagnostic test kits, protective kits and quality assured medicines but also to collaborate across the continent to ensure that systems are in place to allocate limited resources efficiently to where they are most needed. Given the urgency of the challenge, public private partnership models must be explored to attend quickly to the needs of African nations.
Governments, national and regional policy makers, development finance institutions, philanthropic organisations, African pharma companies and other stakeholders must converge quickly to ensure that diagnostic testing kits,contact tracing systems and pharmaceutical supplies becomes available as soon as possible.