South Africa: President Welcomes Serum Institute of India’s Funding Initiative

President Cyril Ramaphosa has, in his capacity as African Union (AU) COVID-19 Champion, welcomed the Serum Institute of India’s (SII) groundbreaking initiative to provide an initial US$2 500 000 (R42 179 375) to galvanise investment into an African and global health workforce.

According to the President’s Office, the money will go towards supporting the AU COVID-19 Commission as it implements the mandate to establish an AU Health Workforce Task Team (AU-HWTT), which will undertake the programmatic work, public engagement and consensus building towards a fit-for-purpose health workforce that can sustain Universal Health Coverage in Africa.

President Ramaphosa has welcomed this seed funding from SII.

“I am pleased to see that Serum, as the producer of medical countermeasures, understands that it is the health workforce that delivers these lifesaving tools to the people. We welcome this contribution to kick start the continental health workforce initiative and call on businesses, donors and other investors to follow Serum’s example”.

The AU COVID-19 Commission supports President Ramaphosa in his role as COVID-19 Champion and partners with Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), SII and Seed Global Health to execute this mandate.

President Ramaphosa established the COVID-19 Commission in 2021 to strengthen the continental institutions established as part of the AU’s continental response to COVID-19.

This includes the Africa Joint Continental Strategy on Africa’s COVID-19 Response, the African Medical Supplies Platform, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) and others established during South Africa’s tenure as AU Chair in 2020.

“President Ramaphosa seeks to align political, health and economic leaders with a long-term transformational plan to train and retain a complete health workforce in Africa through a compact amongst member states. He has secured a mandate to prioritise the health workforce agenda and maintain political attention on the issue.”

The AU-HWTT new initiative aims to develop a comprehensive framework to build a full African healthcare workforce – in pursuit of economic recovery and global health security.

“Health workforce development is a critical pillar of the AU’s New Public Health Order towards universal health coverage, pandemic preparedness and health security.”

Data has shown the social and financial returns on investment for every dollar spent on training.

“For countries or continents where the youth population make up over 50%, the health workforce represents a pathway for job creation, economic recovery and social inclusion.”

The AU COVID-19 Commission will oversee Africa CDC’s implementation of the initiative in partnership with Seed Global Health.

“It is anticipated that SII’s initial donation will act as a catalyst and ‘global rallying cry’ for other investors, charities and governments to step forward and help build the systems needed to recover from COVID-19.”

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla, said: “We have a long history of providing healthcare support in Africa, including billions of affordable routine vaccines against diseases such as measles and polio, and the development of new vaccines to protect against meningitis and malaria”.

“But the pandemic has taught us the need not only for life-saving medicines but for the life-saving health workers to administer them.”

He believes that the AU-HWTT will mark the first step in the building of the African healthcare workforce of the future.

Poonawalla has called on governments, charities and companies alike to contribute and empower the experts at the AU and Seed Global Health to make this lasting systemic change.

“This will not only help to ensure more people in Africa get vaccinated to finally end the acute phase of COVID-19 and prepare the continent for the health threats of tomorrow.”

President Ramaphosa also announced the introduction to Africa of the oral therapeutic Paxlovid that can now be purchased by the AU Member States at cost price.

Paxlovid is cheaper than other oral therapeutics, reduces death and hospitalisation by 89%, is easy to administer, has few side effects and works against the Omicron variant.

This, coupled with increased vaccination, will significantly reduce the burden on Africa’s health systems that are being rebuilt to recover routine services and for future pandemic preparedness.


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