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African heads of state create Covid-19 fund

Leaders commit US$12.5m to fund and US$4.5m to disease control centre

African heads of state meeting virtually on 26 March agreed to create a fund for Covid-19 support and immediately contributed US$12.5 million seed funding. 

The meeting of the Bureau of African Heads of State and Government was chaired by president Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa. South Africa took over the leadership of the African Union earlier this year.

The seed funding will come from the bureau countries, which in addition to South Africa include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Kenya and Mali. They urged other AU member states, the international community, and philanthropic donors to also contribute to the fund. 

Bureau member states also agreed to provide an immediate US$4.5m extra to the under-funded Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which is coordinating Africa’s response to the outbreak. 

Ramaphosa told the virtual meeting that the global Covid-19 pandemic could explode in Africa  more catastrophically than elsewhere in the world due to the continent’s high levels of poverty, poor sanitation, stretched health systems, and heavy disease burden. 

The bureau asked the international community to open trade corridors for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies in order to avoid shortages in Africa. It also urged the G20 group of nations to help Africa secure medical supplies including Covid-19 test kits, and to draw up a stimulus package for the continent, including debt waivers.