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African Union’s G20 entry strengthens global health security agenda

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of granting permanent member status to the African Union within the Group of 20 top world economies on Saturday is expected to bring about a significant impact on the healthcare landscape in the region, health experts have indicated.

Public health policy experts have said that with permanent membership, African countries will have a more influential voice in global economic discussions. This could potentially translate into increased attention and support for healthcare initiatives and challenges specific to the African continent during G20 meetings.

African countries might have improved access to financial and technical resources from G20 nations. This could be utilized to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, improve healthcare delivery, and address critical health issues such as infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases, said the experts.

“African Union’s entry into the G20 gives a boost to the voice of the Global South on the international stage. Specifically, in the healthcare space, while this will pave the way for improved trade relationships with its 55 member states, it will also help strengthen the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA),” said Himanshu Sikka, Lead – Health, Nutrition and WASH, IPE Global, an international development consulting firm.

“Concerning the GHSA, the African continent has often found itself at the receiving end of decisions set and driven by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries. African Union’s entry into the G20 provides the continent with an opportunity to have a say and ensure its own priorities are considered in global forums,” he said.

The African Union, the experts indicated, could advocate for policies and actions within the G20 that promote global health equity. “This might involve pushing for fair access to vaccines and medicines, addressing health inequalities, and supporting initiatives to strengthen health systems in low-income countries,” said

Dr Naveen Thacker, President at International Pediatrics Association (IPA), which has 40 countries in Africa with its member societies.

A compendium by Observer Research Foundation titled, Accelerating Global Health: Pathways to Health Equity for the G20 has also talked about the state of public health in G20 countries and explores current initiatives being undertaken to bring the world closer to achieving health equity.

Aurélia Nguyen, Chief Programme Officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in her report titled– Ensuring equitable supply and access to critical vaccines during pandemics: The lessons of COVAX, in the compendium—said that the experience during Covid-19 and previous pandemics cries out for increased and geographically diversified vaccine manufacturing, particularly across the African continent.

“Africa has an eighth of the world’s population but only about 0.1 percent of the vaccine manufacturing capacity. There is much work that must and can be done to help those regions establish this essential infrastructure, not just for emergencies but for the production of routine vaccines during non-crisis times. To help regional production take root and grow, there must be support for technology transfer as well as demand-side financing to promote a sustainable diversified manufacturing base,” Nguyen said.

In June, Modi penned a letter to G20 leaders, advocating for the African Union’s full membership within the group, a proposal that was subsequently incorporated into the draft communique for the summit during the third G20 Sherpas meeting held in Hampi, Karnataka, in July. Throughout its tenure as G20 president, India has prioritized critical issues, including inclusive growth, digital innovation, climate resilience, and equitable global health access, all aimed at benefiting the Global South, or developing countries. Business Today

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