Following the 15th BRICS Summit in Sandton last week, Africa is already making moves to become less dependent on the West.
In a landmark discussion hosted by the South African Health Department, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Africa Health Business and the African Chapter of the BRICS Business Council member states of BRICS, including recently joined Ethiopia and Egypt, have made a commitment to collaborate with the business sector on preventing, preparing for, and responding to pandemics.
This dialogue took place alongside the BRICS summit with an aim to establish a framework between the African Union (AU) and BRICS in terms of preparedness, prevention, response and recovery (3P2R).
The goal is to capitalise on the combined expertise of both AU and BRICS in managing not only Covid-19, but other health crises.
While there are already platforms addressing regional pandemic prevention efforts, it is worth noting that expanded BRICS now represents an astounding 4.8 billion people, more than half of the world's population.
Given this shift in power dynamics, along with challenges such as climate change and increasing outbreaks of diseases, it becomes increasingly clear how vital the AU and BRICS are for global health security.
Dr Stavros Nicolaou, a member of the BRICS Business Council emphasised the urgency behind this collaboration; "The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed health disparities that are particularly evident on the African continent“.
Collaborative efforts between BRICS regions can improve surveillance, research, infrastructure and resource allocation. This will ensure a coordinated response to pandemics.
The conversation also highlighted the success of the "Johannesburg Process", a platform that has played a role in coordinating medical countermeasures during health crises.
This initiative is seen as a tool to the World Health Organization’s efforts.
A significant revelation from the meeting was the contribution of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturing Network (DCVMN) which consists of manufacturers from BRICS member states. They provided 60% of the Covid-19 vaccine products. The discussion also touched upon the potential of expanding BRICS and AU markets to include all manufacturers in these regions.
There were, however, concerns raised during the dialogue. Stakeholders acknowledged inequalities in low and middle income countries, fragile health systems and insufficient funding for 3P2R (preparedness, prevention, response, recovery).
Diversified manufacturing, support for Africa’s manufacturing goals and primary healthcare development were identified as areas for focus.
Concrete actions proposed include establishing a BRICS 3P2R fund through the New Development Bank and organising a conference at the International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in 2023 to reach agreement on an AU and BRICS framework.
Dr Jean Kaseya, the Director General of Africa CDC highlighted the importance of this dialogue, especially considering the pandemic.
It emphasises the responsibility to enhance both health security and adaptability going beyond borders.
Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla echoed this sentiment by emphasising the need for BRICS member states to strengthen their efforts in promoting health technologies within their health systems. He expressed satisfaction that BRICS member states have reaffirmed and committed themselves to bolstering prevention, preparedness and response.