We must invest today to improve the health of tomorrow
The United States has invested in Aspen to ensure everyone on the continent has access to the Covid-19 vaccine
News 24 | Friday 22 October 2021 | David Marchick and Todd Haskell
Covid-19 vaccine capacity shortage on the continent threatens to prolong pandemic and leave Africa open to other health threats, writes David Marchick and Todd Haskell.
A year ago, a world transformed by Covid-19 awaited the arrival of life-saving vaccines. Today, as the second year of this pandemic draws to a close, we face the challenge of producing and distributing the billions of vaccines needed to immunize the entire world. The United States is working to meet the latter challenge by investing in increased manufacturing capacity in Africa and the developing world.
Earlier this year, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) worked with the government of South Africa, the U.S. Mission to South Africa, and other major development agencies to support an investment of 600 million euros enabling Aspen Pharmacare, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company, to significantly increase vaccine production at its Eastern Cape factory in Gqeberha.
The investment in Aspen is one of several deals that DFC has supported in Africa and around the world to help raise the large amounts of capital needed to build long-term manufacturing capacity to ensure that every eligible person in the world can get a life-saving vaccine. . As the U.S. government’s development finance institution, DFC works to mobilize investment to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Investment in Aspen and other deals in Africa and India are collectively expected to result in the production of nearly two billion Covid vaccines by the end of 2022.
Half of the continent is vaccinated
When we visited the Aspen Pharmacare manufacturing plant in Gqeberha and other US investments across the country, we were aware of the disparities that persist. To date, about half of African countries have fully immunized less than two percent of their population.
There is another figure that captures the scale of the challenge going forward. Today, companies based in Africa manufacture only one percent of all vaccine doses administered on the continent. Covid has dramatically exacerbated this long-standing problem. Consider that before the pandemic, the global manufacturing capacity of all vaccines – influenza, polio, yellow fever and others – was five billion doses. For Covid-19 alone, global manufacturing demand is estimated at more than 11 billion doses, not counting recalls.
This capacity shortage threatens not only to prolong the pandemic, but also to leave the continent unprepared for future health crises. The African Union and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize this is an urgent crisis and have set a target for African companies to manufacture 60% of the continent’s vaccine doses by 2040. It is an ambitious but necessary goal. It is a goal that the United States and South Africa will achieve by working together.
DFC was established in 2019 to continue and expand America’s long tradition of development investment around the world. DFC investments build critical infrastructure and increase access to vital public services such as electricity and health care. When Covid-19 became the biggest development challenge in a generation, DFC quickly pivoted to deal with the crisis. Since then, the agency has supported numerous projects aimed at expanding access to essential medical, therapeutic and vaccine equipment. And we see South Africa as an essential partner in these investments.
Comprehensive approach to financing for development
DFC provides loans, guarantees, insurance, technical assistance and other investment tools to help private businesses in emerging economies. We have the means and the mandate to invest in projects that will bring the world out of the pandemic. In addition to saving lives in the short term, DFC is also committed to building resilience to future challenges, promoting economic growth and improving health.
This is why DFC’s approach to development finance is broad. While we invest in projects to increase vaccine production, we also focus on supporting long-term stability and resilience through investments in water and sanitation, food security, electricity and technology.
This week, we also visited another DFC investment in a technology company that will establish the data centers critical to South Africa’s continued economic growth. DFC investments are only one part of a broad and in-depth set of programs for the US mission in South Africa.
Armed with our excellent partnership with the South African government and the capabilities of the great South African people, together we can overcome this pandemic and meet whatever challenges the future may bring.
David Marchick is COO of the American International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the US government’s development finance institution. Todd Haskell is the charge d’affaires of the American mission in South Africa.
Credit: Originally posted in News 24