There is need for greater inclusion and involvement of Finance Ministers to ensure adequate budgetary allocations and financing to secure both local and possibly international logistic for COVID-19 vaccines distribution and delivery, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said
The Minister said the approach to address vaccine access, delivery and uptake in Africa has made the process difficult to navigate considering the financing gaps that exist.
Speaking on the modalities for the vaccines’ distribution during a virtual meeting on the challenge of logistics, the Minister wanted to know the exact mechanisms existing for countries to access the vaccines in Africa.
She said apart from bits and pieces of information that are available to countries, to date the logistics of the vaccines’ distribution have not been as coordinated as expected.
From Finance Ministry’s perspective, Ahmed said: “Understanding the urgency of the moment, there needs to be greater inclusion and involvement of Finance Ministers, as budgetary allocations need to be made and financing secured both locally and possibly internationally.”
In view of real time challenges in preparing for the receipt of COVID-19 vaccines, roll out as well as real time information and funding gaps, the minister said access to vaccine financing should be simplified.
She said an act of global solidarity should be to support Finance Ministries in countries with the necessary capacity required to complete what could often be a complex and laborious bureaucratic process.
Ahmed called for proposals from banks on how countries could access finance mechanisms and support from other sources to help Ministries of Finance to easily and quickly apply for such funding.
For her, funding needs to be flexible to support purchase or delivery in health systems and possibly as corporate social responsibility (CSR) from banks.
Consequently, participants in the meeting acknowledged and commended the proposed over 20 percent COVAX donation to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and stressed the need to fully protect the populations to restart African economies.
However, they noted that 20 percent donation was not enough to support Africa’s efforts to vaccinate at least 60 percent of her populations.
Procurement through African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), the participants noted, was a welcome initiative, as this has harnessed the continent’s joint negotiating power and reduction in costs.
“We now ask multilaterals, banks and bilateral partners to join hands with us to ensure that we not only have vaccines, but are able to deliver all the way through to community level,” they said.
Calling on high income countries to support the initiative of Africans helping Africa and also to consider the high costs of vaccine delivery, the participants welcomed the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA), saying it would provide local solutions to meeting the gaps in logistics and delivery across the continent, as not all countries have the capacity to deliver even the donated vaccines.
Underlining the importance of transparency and support to address gaps, the minister noted that as a multi-sectoral issue, COVID-19 is a health crisis that has metamorphosed into an economic crisis and must be addressed with urgency collaboratively.
“We welcome this opportunity to dialogue with one another and also with many of our international partners and friends to find joint solutions to this pandemic and enable us recover and build back quickly.
“We look forward to a commitment of greater transparency of information for future planning across health and finance and potential mechanisms for such transparency and information sharing,” she said.