On 22 September 2021, US President Joe Biden hosted a Global COVID-19 Summit on the side-lines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly, bringing together leaders in government, business, and philanthropy to commit to an equitable pandemic response and to building a stronger global pandemic preparedness architecture.
Speaking at the event, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation urged leaders to invest in Africa’s vaccine security, saying that Africa already has the experience, expertise, and robust plans required to address the pandemic but requires support. Ms. Roy called on leaders to focus on building Africa’s medical manufacturing capacity as part of a strategy for preparing for the next biological threat.
Earlier this year, the Mastercard Foundation announced that it would deploy $1.3 billion in partnership with the Africa CDC to address vaccine inequity under a joint initiative dubbed Saving Lives and Livelihoods. As part of the initiative, the Foundation committed to enabling continental vaccine manufacturing by investing in the skills and knowledge required to drive manufacturing.
The African Union and Africa CDC have set a goal of ensuring that Africa is able to meet 60% of its vaccine demand through domestic production by 2040. In July, the Africa Union convened an inaugural meeting of the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing—a pan-African platform dedicated to driving this agenda.
The momentum for vaccine manufacturing in Africa is growing. Earlier this year, Senegal announced a $200 million program to build Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing hub, with the goal of producing 25 million doses a month by the end of 2022. Recently, BioNTech, the biotechnology giant behind the development of the Pfizer vaccine, announced that it is actively exploring the possibility of building mRNA manufacturing plants in Senegal and Rwanda. Presidents Kagame and Macky Sall welcomed the milestone, with President Kagame hailing it as a step towards “making mRNA end-to-end vaccine manufacturing in Africa a reality.”
Currently, less than four percent of Africa’s citizens are fully vaccinated – the lowest of any region –and supply challenges continue to constrain the global vaccination effort. At the same time, the rise and spread of COVID-19 variants remains concerning to public health experts around the world. As President Biden recognized in his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly: “as a global community…our own success is bound up with others succeeding as well.” Right now, the world’s success in addressing COVID-19 and preparing for the next pandemic is bound up in Africa’s.