Today, the United States and African Union (AU) – Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) renewed our partnership by signing an updated Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission ( AUC), and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This strategic memorandum signifies a continued and expanded commitment to this partnership by outlining our shared priorities for a safer, healthier, and more equitable future. Together, we will continue efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda.
At the February 2022 AU Heads of State Summit, a resolution was approved to elevate Africa CDC’s status to an autonomous health agency of the African Union – a recognition of its global and regional leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ebola outbreaks, and many other health events. In its support to Member States, Africa CDC serves as a platform to share and exchange knowledge and lessons from public health interventions. Since our partnership officially began in 2015, the US government and Africa CDC have worked together to combat some of the world’s most pressing crises, including Ebola and COVID-19. We have continued to build on our strong relationship through technical assistance, embedded experts and deployed staff to work alongside the organization, and funding to support Africa CDC activities and staffing.
Today, we celebrate ongoing work and highlight key areas of future engagement, including:
National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs): National public health institutes (NPHIs) serve as a functional home for public health activities and the foundation of Africa CDC’s operating model. These science-based agencies monitor the population’s health and respond to disease outbreaks and other public health priorities. They provide leadership and coordination to focus on core public health functions, including surveillance, laboratory, workforce, and public health emergency management. There is a natural synergy between Africa CDC and the United States in establishing NPHIs and strengthening their core functions.
The United States has also supported Africa CDC’s three-tiered operational model by developing and strengthening NPHIs at the national level and at five Regional Collaborating Centers (RCCs). The RCCs help build capacity of, coordinate public health initiatives with, and coordinate resources among AU Member States. Current Africa CDC initiatives, in partnership with the United States, can address capacity needs of NPHIs, including surveillance networks, health information exchange, early warning systems, and development of testing and diagnostics capacity. Our partnership will help support Africa CDC’s ongoing efforts to expand health security throughout the continent, and help countries reach the goals and target of the Global Health Security Agenda.
Public Health Workforce: The United States and Africa CDC share the perspective that the public health and healthcare workforce plays a critical role in strengthening health systems, including preparing for and responding to pandemics while continuing to address health needs. The United States works with Africa CDC in building Africa’s public health workforce through supporting global human resources for health, expanding the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), and partnering with Africa CDC’s Institute for Workforce Development (IWD) on other capacity building efforts.
COVID-19: As part of President Biden’s commitment to leading an international and coordinated vaccine effort, the United States has shared over 166 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with 48 countries in Africa, as of February 2022, with plans for sending more. Africa CDC, in partnership with the African Union, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and COVAX, has helped guide allocations of those doses. The United States is supporting updates to regulatory structures and is facilitating engagement with private sector and international organizations that will help expand vaccine manufacturing and enable African public health institutions to produce and supply vaccines for the continent. The US government has partnered with Africa CDC to enhance surveillance and laboratory capacity to identify, detect, and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks and variants of concern. The United States has also deployed staff to support and collaborate with Africa CDC in its leadership of COVID-19 response in Africa.
Critical Medical Commodities: Through the United States Government’s Initiative for Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX), we are expanding efforts to work with international partners like Africa CDC to support infrastructure and capacity in vaccine delivery. While we currently work together on COVID-19 vaccine development, these efforts lay the foundation for accelerating the development of vaccines, therapeutics, and other critical medical tools for a range of diseases. This complements existing work and technical partnerships across Africa for similar efforts to meet immediate and long-term health needs.
Advanced Molecular Detection: Advanced technologies such as next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics are essential public health tools to help prevent and respond to emerging health threats. Genomics is an increasingly important tool in emerging potential in global public health. The United States, Africa CDC, and other partners have worked together to launch Africa CDC’s Pathogen Genomics initiative to strengthen laboratory systems and enhance disease surveillance by equipping the continent’s public health institutions with the tools, training, and data infrastructure to fully leverage critical genomic sequencing technologies.