Africa's CDC to get new autonomy
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is slated to become a fully autonomous agency by the end of 2022. “We are quite confident that we should be able to see a fully operational Africa CDC before the end of the year,” said Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of Africa CDC, during a press briefing on Thursday.
Last weekend, the African Union executive council approved the revised statute of Africa CDC during the AU’s midyear coordination meetings in Zambia. This made official Africa CDC’s transformation from a specialized technical institution of the AU to an autonomous public health agency, giving it more independence and making it more flexible in responding to health emergencies.
The initial decision to make Africa CDC more independent was made by heads of state in February, but a bureaucratic process followed within the AU in order to formally revise its statute. The executive council approval was the final stage in the process.
“The autonomy decision is a milestone — a huge milestone in global health security, not just for Africa,” Ouma said, adding that the continent now has direct ownership of its own health care agenda.
In order to achieve full autonomy by the end of the year, there are a number of things that need to happen, Ouma said. Africa CDC will need to establish support systems, such as human resources, finance, administration and procurement, to keep it from being dependent on the AU for these functions. The AU Commission has been asked to provide Africa CDC with the necessary infrastructure so it can stand on its own as an institution, he said.
Until Africa CDC’s own systems can become operational, he called on the AU Commission to increase the speed at which it offers support, so that Africa CDC can respond more quickly to outbreaks. Lacking offices in each country, Africa CDC — based in Ethiopia — uses the commission’s systems to engage with countries.
In February, heads of state also supported the establishment of an epidemic fund for the continent, and last weekend, the executive council granted approval for the AU to move forward with it. There is an “advanced draft” on this fund, and within the next two months, Africa CDC is expected to submit the draft to the policy organs including the AU’s Permanent Representatives Committee. Next February, Ouma said, it will be presented for approval to the executive council at the AU’s annual summit of African heads of state.