President Akufo-Addo interacting with President Paul Kagame
President Akufo-Addo interacting with President Paul Kagame

African countries on Thursday were urged to leverage the agreement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for Africa’s health sector.

This came during an event dubbed Public Health Grand Rounds at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, where officials and health experts emphasized the need to strengthen Africa’s health system in order to advance Africa’s integration agenda.

Under the topic of Infectious Disease Threats and African Continental Free Trade Agreement, participants of the event discussed how to ensure a health-secure Africa to support the continental agenda of AU, the 55-member pan-African organization.

They noted that Africa’s integration into one common market offers tremendous economic growth potential, and that strong public health care systems are essential for advancing the agenda.

Speaking on the occasion, Stephen Karingi, Director for Regional Integration and Trade Division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), emphasized the need to leverage the AfCFTA to address Africa’s development agenda.

Africans should not use the possibility or probability of spread of diseases to close their borders, Karingi told reporters, particularly, emphasizing the need to be prepared and strengthen the continent’s health system to deal with unfortunate situations that may arise from the threat of disease spread.

“The key thing is how do we leverage the AfCTA to create the capacity for our economies, – through strengthening our manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and movement of medicines, movement of medical supplies across the countries to be able to deal with the challenge in the health sector,” Karingi added.

Africa has a high disease burden and medicines consume between 45 and 60 percent of African nations’ healthcare budget. The continent manufactures less than 2 percent of its medicines, according to the UNECA official. Enditem

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