Communique on the appointment of President of the Republic of South Africa H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa as the African Union Champion on COVID-19 and the establishment of the Commission on African COVID-19 response
The African Union Bureau of Assembly of Heads of State and Government (AU Bureau) announced the President of the Republic of South Africa, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, as the AU Champion on COVID-19 at the 34th Ordinary Session of the AU held on 06 February 2021.
Following his appointment as AU Champion on COVID-19, President Ramaphosa established the Commission on African COVID-19 Response. The Commission, chaired by the President and deputised by the Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Infection (Africa CDC), Dr John Nkengasong, held its inaugural meeting on 22 June 2021.
The establishment of this Commission recognises and advances the crucial role played by President Ramaphosa in driving the continental COVID-19 response during his tenure as Chair of the African Union in 2020. During this time the following critical milestones were attained:
The development and endorsement of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak
The establishment of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus (AFTCOR)
The development and establishment of the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP)
The establishment of the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to secure financing for and acquire vaccines
Coordinating communications across the continent around COVID-19 as well as the contributions of the AU Bureau to the continental COVID-19 response
The appointment of AU Special Envoys for COVID-19
The Commission's overarching goal is to support the President in his Championship role in order to enable his continued leadership in guiding the continental response to COVID-19. The Commission's mandate is two-fold: 1) identify gaps in the continental COVID-19 response strategy and propose evidence-based interventions within the scope of practice of the Commission, and 2) generate evidence to assess the impact of COVID-19 on social and economic harm on the continent and propose ways to a strong recovery.
Some of the specific areas of focus in the Commission's work include the need to strengthen the public health workforce; continental manufacturing of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics; results-oriented partnerships, and strengthening national public health institutions including the Africa CDC.
To address the immediate urgency of securing vaccines for the continent, the inaugural meeting included invited guests from GAVI, UNICEF, Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundation to galvanise support around innovative mechanisms to secure Africa's position in the vaccine market.
The Commission has five working groups, facilitated by the Deputy Chairperson, Dr John Nkengasong, in the following areas:
Supporting the work of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the continent and manufacturing of health security-related commodities
Advancing evidence-based recommendations required to implement the adapted Joint Continental Strategy (focusing on enhanced prevention, monitoring, and treatment) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic as the continent confronts the third wave
Supporting the work of the AU in health, social and economic recovery, in alignment with the work of the Regional Economic Communities (REC's), the Member States and the work of the AU Special Envoys, using evidence-based approaches
Conducting research and tabling recommendations for managing the 'twin pandemics' of gender-based violence and COVID-19 in Africa
Describing and analysing the societal impact of COVID-19 through research and provide recommended interventions to eradicate stigma and discrimination faced by individuals, families and communities as a result of COVID-19.
Identify funding sources to finance the work of the Commission
Members of the Commission represent a cross-section of society, including civil society, academia, the continental scientific community, the public health sector, the medical fraternity, the private sector, and development finance institutions.
The Commission will work within the established African Continental Strategy structures and will be supported by a Secretariat.
Commissioners strongly highlighted the immediate urgency of accelerating vaccine procurement and rollout on the continent through a unified approach. They also emphasised the critical role of health systems strengthening and public health investments as the foundation of this intervention.
Commissioners also emphasised the cross-cutting nature of gender-related issues across all the objectives set in the terms of reference.
"Despite the development of a vaccine, we are still a long way from permanently containing the pandemic, necessitating that African countries consolidate their cooperation and strengthen partnerships with all stakeholders in this crucial next phase," President Ramaphosa said.
It is envisaged that the Commission's output will be tabled as a standing agenda item of the African Union Bureau of Assembly of Heads of State and Government (AU Bureau).
Dr John Nkengasong, Cameroon
Professor Amadou Sall, Senegal
Dr Sani Aliyu, Nigeria
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, South Africa
Dr Ama Pokuaa Fenny, Ghana
Dr Hakiba Solange, Rwanda
Professor Senait Fisseha, Ethiopia
Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Kenya
Prof Maaroufi Abderrahmane, Morocco
Professor Maha El Rabbat, Egypt
Professor Francine Ntoumi, Congo
Dr. Patrick Tippoo, South Africa
Professor Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda
Dr. Denis Mukwege, DRC