Covid-19 Response Fund “The bigger the amount raised, the more we will be able to have a coordinated strategy for the whole continent”
In partnership with the AfroChampions Initiative, a project designed to foster the emergence of African economic champions, the African Union and the African Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Africa CDC) announced on 7 April the launch of a fund called COVID-19 Response Fund. The stated objective of this support fund is to mobilize an initial amount of 150 million dollars from the African private sector to meet the immediate health needs related to Covid-19. In a second phase, up to 400 million dollars could be raised to support a sustainable medical response to this pandemic. Explications with Edem Adzogenu, Cofounder Initiative AfroChampions and Anne-Elvire Esmel, Program Director Initiative AfroChampions.
Interview by Bilkiss Mentari
On April 7, you announced the launch of a fund, COVID-19 Response Fund. How did this initiative come about and with what objectives?
There have been a number of discussions over the last two weeks, under the aegis of the African Union, which had successfully begun to sensitize the Heads of State of the Continent. On the private sector side, many were wondering how to act in an effective and coordinated manner – and we echoed this good will to the African Union.
As AfroChampions is an official partner of the African Union, we have been associated with the fund project – to raise awareness in the private sector and maximize the impact of this emergency response instrument. In practical terms, the fund is designed to provide a sustainable medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic by pooling the resources required for the procurement of medical supplies and commodities and by supporting the deployment of rapid responders across the continent. Other priority actions include implementing a broad awareness campaign on prevention among African populations.
One of the objectives is to mobilize $150 million from the private sector, and up to $400 million in a second phase. It’s an ambitious goal. How do you intend to mobilize these funds?
This is an objective that corresponds to the estimates of the African Union’s CDC – and so logically we do our best to cover these needs. The approach is simple: we want to mobilize the public and private sectors together. On the side of African states, several commitments have been made, from Mali, Kenya, Egypt, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other commitments are in the process of being formalized. On the private sector side, we already have positive feedback from some of our great captains of industry and members of the AfroChampions network – Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Dangote Group, Patrice Motseppe, President of the Rainbow Minerals Group, Naguib Sawiris, President of Orascom, Samba Bathily, President of the ADS Group. We are in the process of activating our networks. In addition, while ECOBANK hosts the fund’s main account, many other banks, first and foremost Equity Bank, are willing to open secondary accounts to top up the main account or, if they can, leverage their IT infrastructure to facilitate mobile donations from private individuals customers. We are also hoping for support from the continent’s major DFIs – again, the bigger the amount raised, the more we will be able to have a coordinated strategy for the whole continent. We are giving ourselves the practical means to move forward, what matters now is to ensure a successful mobilization.
How will these funds be used on the field: towards what types of projects, for what impact?
As explained, this is an emergency fund focused on medical response, which will consist of a comprehensive mapping of key diagnostic, equipment and protection needs by country, for public and private hospitals. Grouped orders will then be placed, initially with African manufacturers to optimize transport and delivery. This crisis is forcing us to open our eyes to the our very limited resources, but also to what we can do to change the situation – and the fund will also make it possible to reinforce local production capacities, as well as our health infrastructure in the long term – in a logic of self-reliance. Everyone is affected, and today more than ever Africans must understand that foreign aid will inevitably be limited and that they must mobilize their own resources.
As you have said, we are aiming for an initial fund-raising effort of USD 150 million for immediate needs – diagnosis, protection – estimated by the CDC; and for the broader response to the epidemic (i.e.: treatment, strengthening health care facilities and health infrastructure), we want to go as high as USD 400 million, again on the basis of the CDC’s estimates of needs. Part of these funds could be used to support the most vulnerable populations affected by the economic effects of this crisis.