Strengthening resilient health systems in sub-Saharan Africa
By Veronika Ertl, Martina Kaiser, Stjerna Weidenbach
What contribution can the European Union and the African Union make to strengthening resilient health systems?
The corona pandemic shows that many health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa have structural weaknesses. The upcoming realignment of EU-Africa relations offers the opportunity to deepen cooperation in the field of health system strengthening. The African Union is an important partner for the EU in this regard.
The planned ongoing realignment of EU-Africa relations presents a window of opportunity to strengthen health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, and embed this topic into the cooperation in the long term. The African Union (AU) is an important partner for the EU in this context.
During the early stages of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the AU and its Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), created a range of multilateral coordination mechanisms and support services which aimed to contain the spread of the Corona virus.
The Africa CDC, a relatively new institution, has achieved a remarkable feat with its emergency response. However, limited financial resources and the diverging interests of individual states have somewhat reduced its ability to respond.
To date, the focus of partnership agreements between the EU and AU has not been on streng-thening health systems. Structures created as part of the AU’s emergency response provide a strong foundation for cooperation in advancing resilient health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The partnership initiative EU for Health Security in Africa signed in December 2020 by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and Africa CDC, is a positive development and starting point for more strategic and long-term cooperation.
In light of the above, some recommended actions for future EU-AU cooperation are as follows:
› Establish health, and strengthening health systems in particular, as a priority of the EU’s new Africa strategy.
› Strategically shape the ECDC-Africa CDC partnership with a view to the long term, while considering the expertise and needs of both sides.
› Expand and consolidate political exchange on health between the EU and AU, for example through a ministerial dialogue format