Africa CDC signs deal to fight diseases in Kenya, region

A microscope image of the virus that causes Ebola.
A microscope image of the virus that causes Ebola.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

A week after President William Ruto urged Kenya and Africa to focus on establishing a new public health order that focuses on prevention and preparedness as key pillars in health service delivery, the Africa CDC has signed a major deal.

 This comes after the Africa CDC announced the signing of an MoU with GSMA, an industry organisation that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.

The deal was announced during this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) which is currently ongoing in Barcelona, Spain and is an annual electronics trade show on the mobile technology industry.

“Today, Africa CDC and GSMA signed an MoU to bring more technology into the health space, on the sidelines of this year's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. We are committed to delivering faster and more efficient health safeguards for Africa,” Dr Ahmed Ogwell, the acting director of Africa CDC announced in a tweet on Wednesday.

“GSMA and Africa CDC have today signed an agreement in Barcelona aimed at harnessing the power of mobile to combat disease in Africa. It will provide a framework for partnership between the two organisations on a range of priorities,” GSMA, on its part, said.

The announcement comes after President Ruto last week noted that the Covid-19 pandemic was a painful reminder that without health, industries shut down.

He urged African heads of state and delegates at the AU summit to do more to build resilient healthcare systems.

“Without health; trade and innovation slow down. Without health, geopolitical tensions are heightened. The global health architecture has rapidly transformed following the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed over 6.8 million lives worldwide,” President Ruto said while pointing out that the medical and scientific response to the Covid-19 was exemplary.

Dr Ruto believes that there is an urgent need for the health sector to build resilient health systems, powered by technology and innovation and a robust health workforce.

“However, the political goodwill was found wanting. The greatest lesson learnt from the pandemic is; “if world leaders cannot work together, cooperate and coordinate efforts for the betterment of the human race, then loss of lives is inevitable”.

Continental and international forums

“We must always, as African leaders, talk about this agenda on all national, regional, continental and international forums we find ourselves on. It is only when we talk about our issues that they get the attention they deserve," he said, adding that inclusivity is a word that needs to be spoken audaciously.

“Africa for a long time has suffered the consequences of being left out of global conversations. The term ‘benefit sharing’ gained popularity over the last three years when referring to the Covid-19 vaccine. African countries, for example, Kenya, participated in the development of different vaccines. Trials and genotyping information were freely shared.”

“However, after the vaccines underwent regulatory review and approval, an equivalent benefit of the aforementioned technology shared was not realised by African countries.

Vaccines were hoarded by the countries capable of producing them and Africa had limited access to this lifesaving commodity. This was extremely unfortunate, clearly showing that inequity fosters vulnerability,” the president said.

“Therefore our core mandate as not just Africans, but as global leaders is to ensure that Africa has the capacity to produce her own medicines, vaccines and other health products and technologies. We must ensure that our vulnerabilities change to our strengths.”

President Ruto also reminded the five Africa CDC Regional Collaborating Centres of their golden opportunity.

“You have a golden opportunity of reaching out to the global north countries that have R&D specialists (a good proportion of whom are Africans) and collaborate with them towards building continental capacities in this sector,” he said.