New Africa CDC Head Proposes Airline Tax to Fund Health
The new head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Jean Kaseya

The new head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr Jean Kaseya, wants to introduce a tax on all airline passengers on the continent to help finance health.

Days into the start of his term, the Congolese medical doctor revealed his manifesto for his four-year term at a media briefing on Thursday, his first public engagement since he was appointed to the post in February.

His manifesto is synced with the pillars of Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order, said Kaseya, focusing on the health workforce, financing Africa’s health systems, building partnerships, reinforcing local and regional organizations to respond to all health issues, and boosting local manufacturing capacities on the continent for diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Kaseya’s proposes actions meant to make Africa CDC to be more autonomous such as an African Air Tax to be paid by airline passengers with the proceeds going to financing Africa CDC’s health support to countries. 

Addressing journalists on Thursday, Kaseya said the tax is a way of extending Africa CDC’s autonomy from administrative autonomy to financial sustainability.

“We have some ideas we are discussing with key people and our member states. Financial sustainability will give us the opportunity not only to sit respectfully with our partners to meet the needs of African people, it also gives us some flexibility to support responses during different occurrences,” he added.

“By 2040, I will be 70 years old. I want to say to my children and grandchildren that I and my colleagues made Africa more independent by learning from what COVID-19 gave us as lessons,” Kaseya said.

He noted that the agency now has “a very strong political mandate” because it is engaging directly with Africa’s heads of state and, as such, it must be properly aligned to ensure true representation of the respective countries’ health priorities. 

“We have with this power, the convening power, we are the umbrella of all health efforts on the continent. This means our strategic plan must reflect the agenda of the majority of countries in Africa,” he added.

The continent also aims to increase its local vaccine production from the current 1% of vaccines to up to 60% by 2040.

Challenges ahead

When Kaseya’s election was announced, a number of several clear challenges emerged including getting all the countries on the continent to work together and in fulfilling the goals of the agency’s new public health order.

Dr Javier Guzman, Director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, said that Kaseya will face a formidable series of challenges in advancing the Africa CDC strategy. Moreover, there is also the challenge of finding new ways to make the agency and its public health priorities stand out in the post-COVID era – amongst the multiple other challenges that Africa faces in trade, finance, climate change and diplomacy.

But COVID-19 is no longer the priority that it used to be, Guzman noted.  Instead, many countries are now preoccupied with a burgeoning fiscal and debt crisis, as well as multiple other competing priorities.  These include accelerating the African Continental Free Trade Area, the main agenda item at the 36th AU Assembly, as well as confronting the growing effects of climate change and the war in Ukraine on food security, and beyond. 

“Dr Kaseya needs to bring a clear and focused vision to Africa CDC’s agenda, secure financial sustainability and build efficient operations, proactively reset the continental/regional balance, and secure the place of Africa CDC within a changing global health architecture. He will have the challenging job of maintaining the status of Africa CDC as the leading public health institution for the continent and delivering on the promise of an autonomous public health agency, a status granted by the African Union Assembly in February 2022,” Guzman said.

Kaseya has over two decades of experience in public health in international institutions and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, revealed his priorities and strategic vision for the autonomous health agency.

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