Mastercard Foundation Donates US$ 1.3 Billion to Vaccinate 50 Million Africans Against COVID-19
Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation will spend US$ 1.3 billion over the next three years to help vaccinate 50 million Africans against COVID-19 and accelerate the continent’s economic recovery from the pandemic, one of the world’s biggest foundations has announced.

Tuesday’s announcement by the Foundation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention(Africa CDC) comes less than a week after the World Health Organization’s Africa region called for an increase in vaccine dose sharing as it witnessed a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in southern and eastern African countries – some of which are also entering the chilly winter season now. 

It also comes amid growing global concerns over Covid-19 vaccine inequality – with WHO’s African Regional Office announcing on 3 June that only 0.54% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have been fully vaccinated. The African Development Bank has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021, and said that widespread vaccination is critical to the economic recovery of African countries.

Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the MasterCard Foundation said the Foundation’s new Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative will also lay the groundwork for establishing more vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa by focusing on human capacity development, and strengthening the Africa CDC.

Roy told journalists during a media briefing that the aim of the initiative is to ensure that “all lives are valued and Africa’s economic recovery is accelerated”. “Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent,” she said.

Describing the new partnership as a “bold step towards establishing a New Public Health Order for Africa”, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said: “Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it’s the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future.”

Africa’s Race To Economic Recovery and Vaccination Agenda

A $1.3-billion donation from the Mastercard Foundation will help vaccinate 50 million Africans over the next three years.

With billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally, the reopening of several economies now hinge on expanded vaccine coverage to begin the journey towards economic recovery.

This is also expected to happen in Africa which however has been plagued by the dual impacts of vaccine inequality and vaccine hesitancy that could further prevent the continent from regaining the economic losses attributable to COVID-19.

For the first time in 25 years, Africa, in 2020, faced an economic recession and the African Development Bank warned that COVID-19 could reverse hard-won gains in poverty reduction over the past two decades and drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021. It described widespread vaccination as critical to the economic recovery of African countries.

The Mastercard Foundation said the initiative was aligned with the African Union’s vaccination goal. While less than 2% of Africans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, the AU aims to vaccinate 6 out of 10 Africans by 2022, this means reaching about 750 million Africans — roughly the continent’s entire adult population.

Strengthening Africa’s Public Health Institutions

In remarks at the launch, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said the initiative will strengthen the continent’s public health institutions and help save lives.

“It is practical and immediate. Lives are going to be saved through the vaccines  that will be purchased. There is also a commitment to work directly with our public health institutions and make them strong, creative parallel systems have not been effective,” Kagame said.

The partnership, said Kagame, also puts Africa’s long-term vision to produce medicines and vaccines on the continent into consideration. “But we have to do our part with a sense of urgency and excellence,”  said Kagame, urging key players in Africa to do things differently and not “a business-as-usual” mindset.

Nkengasong said the new initiative will work in synergy with others to advance and expand vaccine access in Africa –  including the WHO co-sponsored COVAX vaccine facility and the African Union’s own COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which has offered a continent-wide procurement and financial mechanisms for African countries purchasing their own vaccines. However, many countries have been reluctant to borrow funds to buy needed vaccine doses. 

Kagame again called on the global community to expand access to vaccines across Africa, noting that doses of vaccines available to Africa are only a small portion of the global supply. Nkengasong said the continent still needs to meet the financial costs to purchase, deliver, and administer vaccines remain significant. 

But he was confident in the continent’s ability to meet the vaccine goal which he said will be achieved with active involvement of governments, global funders, the private sector, and other key players including citizens’ acceptance of the vaccines when they become available. 

The move received wide applause from other leading African health influencers with former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf calling it a ‘game changer’.


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