From Uche Usim, Abuja
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed on Friday urged African Heads of Government to immediately include Finance Ministers on the continent in the COVID-19 vaccine delivery programme, saying that the financing approach has been somewhat opaque and difficult to navigate.
Ahmed made the disclosure in a statement released by her spokesman, Tanko Abdullahi.
According to him, the Minister has picked holes on the modalities of COVID-19 vaccine procurement, saying: “What exactly are the existing mechanisms for countries to access? We have had bits and pieces of information. But to date, this has not been as coordinated as hoped.”
From her Ministry’s perspective, she also 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.”
Against the backdrop of real time challenges in preparing for receipt of COVID-19 vaccines, roll out, and the real time information and funding gaps, Ahmed urged that access to vaccine financing should be simplified, and an act of global solidarity should be to support Finance Ministries 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, because, according to her, funding needs to be flexible to support purchase or delivery (health systems) and possible corporate social responsibility (CSR) from banks.
Participants at a recent regional ministerial meeting appreciated the proposed 20 percent COVAX donation to low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The consensus was an urgent need to protect Africans and have the continent’s economy restarted.
At the meeting, there was a target to vaccinate at least 60 percent of Africa’s population.
According to them, procurement through African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) is a very welcome initiative as it has harnessed joint negotiating powers and reduced costs.
At the meeting, Mrs. Ahmed is called for transparency and support to address gaps, noting that “COVID-19 is a multi-sectoral issue; it is a health crisis that has metamorphosed into an economic crisis and must be addressed with urgency collaboratively.”