Africa finance ministers seek funding for vaccine equity

Africa’s finance ministers have voiced their concern about the long wait for Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines and have asked for funding to ensure vaccine equity.

The ministers noted with deep concern the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of Africa’s populations, the continent’s economies, and the prospects of achieving the global agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s 50-year continent plan in a joint communique issued late Tuesday concerning Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for low-income and middle-income countries.

“We are disappointed by slowness in accessing vaccines and funding for vaccine equity,” the ministers said in their joint communique.

They emphasized that without rapid access to vaccines, a tidal wave of new coronavirus infections would overwhelm Africa’s already-fragile health systems, deplete limited human resources, and delay the continent’s recovery from COVID-19’s worst effects.

They stressed that the pandemic’s effect on African economies had been devastating, noting that African economies were in recession for the first time in a quarter-century.

“Our fiscal buffers are now truly depleted,” the ministers said, adding that African countries were now allocating significant proportions of their budgets to implement policies that respond to the impact of extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, crop failures, and infrastructure destruction.

They pointed out that such unfavorable developments have harmed the economic prospects of a number of African countries, prompting credit rating downgrades in at least twelve of them.

Six African countries are now in debt distress, including Sao Tome and Principe, the only African country set to graduate from LDC status.

They emphasized that a swift, bold, and positive response in the range of 500 billion to 650 billion dollars in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) was required to halt the crisis’ devastating impact on the continent.

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The ministers praised the Group of Seven (G7) nations for instructing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to take further action in this respect on March 19, and urged all partners to back the G7’s SDR position.

They also asked the G7 to support an on-lending mechanism that would channel SDRs to low- and middle-income countries on a mutually agreed-upon basis.

They suggested that the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) be considered for this purpose, since funding the PRGT with SDRs would allow for additional funding for urgent country priorities, such as vaccine acquisition by low-income countries, in light of the crisis.

It was also mentioned that SDRs can be used to purchase vaccines and improve market re-entry access for eligible countries.

They also stated that Africa is committed to enacting the required reforms to foster transparency and accountability in the mobilization and use of domestic and international resources, as well as debt management.

They did emphasize, however, that global support is required to continue the fight against illicit financial flows (IFFs), especially in the areas of big data analytics, machine learning, and neural network programming, which offer a variety of tools and methods for better predicting illicit behavior and measuring IFFs.

As of Wednesday noon, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 4,148,866, while the death toll due to the pandemic stood at 110,524, according to the latest figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and PreVention.

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