Covid-19: Africa CDC’s Moment

Covid-19: Africa CDC’s Moment

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

As Covid-19 begins to spread on the African continent, it is the moment for the Africa Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to lead.

The Africa CDC was established by the African Union (AU) to support the public health efforts of its member states. It started its operations in 2017, at a time when the fumes from Ebola in West Africa were still fresh.

The devastating impact of Ebola, especially on lives in rural areas, where health and other state institutional frameworks were sparse, affirmed the need to have systems in place to collect data, compare trends and help decision making.

Prevention is at the core of the Africa CDC efforts, and one of the most important tools in the public health arsenal to avoid full-blown epidemics. It has played an important role in helping to contain the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a new case emerged recently, just as the end of the outbreak was about to be declared.

Thanks to the CDC, Africa is in a different and better situation compared to the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. The Africa CDC supports the establishment and strengthening of disease surveillance and prevention in AU member states.

Since its inception, the Africa CDC has been supporting countries across Africa in building their capacity to identify emerging threats. It has a growing partnership of public, civil society and private partners whose mandate is to contribute to a safe, healthy, integrated and prosperous continent.

In addition, to support to individual countries, the organisation has established five regional collaborative centres. In the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Africa CDC has helped to establish testing capacity for Covid-19 in 48 African countries.

These measures are just as important as economic policies to reduce poverty and spur transformation. In the absence of a public health strategy to prevent epidemics, any investments for economic transformation, are likely to be eroded by preventable diseases. Epidemics are the blind spots on the highway of Africa’s progress, and that is why the continent needs to urgently invest in its health infrastructure.

Ultimately, the success of institutions like the Africa CDC will be linked to African countries’ ability to implement progressive socio-economic policies that place its most vulnerable citizens at the centre. The link between health and economic transformation has been well documented. A recent report by the Economic Commission for Africa considers that Africa’s health sector represents a $66 billion investment opportunity.

The reliance on aid in the health sector has its own limitation in where and how it is allocated. This points to the need for African countries collectively to look not only at the private sector or aid to finance health, but also crucially to the public sector, expanding state budget allocation to health, for example by broadening its tax base. This is key, if the continent is to thrive.

In order to fund a universal and comprehensive public health system, agricultural transformation and industrialisation must be a central tenet of the agenda. A prosperous economy means that companies and well-paid workers will constitute a sound tax base for government revenues. The continent can no longer separate its citizens’ health from the need to provide them with decent and fulfilling jobs.

The ongoing pandemic demonstrates that Africa’s limited presence in global value chains puts 1.3 billion people at risk of not having the required protective measures. As China, the world’s manufacturing hub restarts its economy after the stoppages implemented to contain coronavirus, the global demand for protective wear, medical equipment will only increase and become more competitive.

African countries, most with barely a manufacturing sector to speak of, will suffer doubly: from the pandemic itself and the scarcity of resources that makes them unable to outbid wealthier countries for health equipment and medication. Thus pooling of resources through the Africa CDC might provide Africa with more bargaining power for its continental health response.

Some might argue that Africa’s structural transformation is not the issue at hand. But every year Africa imports $14 billion worth of pharmaceutical products and forfeits 16 million jobs on the continent. Decent jobs for the majority remains an important goal to pursue on the continent.

Covid-19 is not only a health emergency but a disaster for millions of Africans in the informal sector who require constant traffic in offices, malls and markets to secure their daily bread. The lockdown measures implemented to flatten the curve, and contain the pandemic have revealed the major structural weaknesses of Africa’s economies.

The informal sector drives much of our economies, but work in the area remains precarious and uncertain. In the absence of measures to support internal demand, small micro-enterprises, many that operate in the informal sector, will bear the brunt of the preventive measures. It is estimated Africa needs $200 billion to shield itself from the impact of coronavirus but does not have anywhere near that amount in the current dispensation.

As a relatively new organization, the Africa CDC has been active in implementing measures to fight the pandemic. It has recently established a continental health ministerial response.  It has been providing weekly Covid-19 training and update webinars in both English and French since February. Part of the continental coordinated efforts discussed are plans to send teams of health workers to support the countries more affected by Covid-19.

There are also a number of private and community-led initiatives which intend to mobilise African resources from citizens and the diaspora. These will come in support of the contribution of some AU member states which committed resources to a Covid-19 response fund.

In addition to these efforts, an African Union initiative led by the President of South Africa, who is the Chair of the African Union, to mobilise international funds has been established to address the economic constraints the continent faces. It is clear that the Africa CDC would be better placed to support its member states in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic if it had more funding at hand.

The institution would also be more effective with a robust well-funded public health care system across Africa’s countries. Africans have had time to observe responses to Covid-19 in eastern, western and northern countries – and have seen how it has stretched better-resourced health systems and claimed many lives.

Many are now aware that the long-term under-investment in health has left the African continent inadequately prepared for the tsunami heading its way. Unless people begin to fund the institutions designed to protect them from preventable infections, Africa as a whole will not be in a position to make progress at the pace that is required to create jobs for the youth.

In my personal view, allowing the Africa CDC to lead and succeed, and supporting it with adequate resources in the fight against Covid-19, has the potential to provide the continent a historical moment for my generation, on par with those who witnessed the elimination of malaria in the United States of America in 1951, and led to the creation of the current U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our continent needs to dream about the possibility that its own institutions can deliver. Accelerating the creation of the Africa CDC was the right thing to do. The current pandemic is the test that we cannot fail, as domestic resources will not be enough to stem the advance of the virus. It is time each country thinks about the whole, and how domestic resources can be scaled at the continental level.

Many countries from South Africa to Senegal via Nigeria and Kenya have announced the creation of solidarity funds. While these funds will serve primarily a national agenda, the virus knows no borders. And because the average citizen with disposable income can give small amounts of money, our best bet to fund the Africa CDC, in times of economic hardship, is to pool our resources. We should all be donating to the Africa CDC.

When the dust settles, as it did after Ebola in West Africa, continental efforts will be forgotten. We had an excuse then, as there was no Africa CDC. Now, we have an institution that contributed to stopping the spread of Ebola in DRC, and coordinates the continental response to Covid-19.

It is Africa CDC’s coming of age and we cannot let the virus beat it.

Published on


Leave your comments


Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.