The Mastercard Foundation announced in early June that it will donate $1.3 billion over three years to strengthen Africa’s COVID-19 response.
The money, distributed in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), is intended to help acquire vaccines for more than 50 million people, improve vaccine manufacturing and delivery capabilities, and improve public health institutions.
“Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent,” Reeta Roy, foundation president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “In the process, this initiative will catalyze work opportunities in the health sector and beyond as part of our Young Africa Works strategy.”
The pledge by the foundation, created by the U.S.-based financial services company, has been hailed as one of the largest private sector donations during the pandemic.
It previously committed $40 million to the Africa CDC’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT). The partnership used the money to buy 1 million test kits and to train and deploy 10,000 community health care workers and 80 surveillance rapid responders to support contact tracing.
“The fact is that this whole pandemic is something that we have all got to put our shoulder to the wheel at,” foundation Executive Chairman Ajay Banga told “PBS NewsHour.” “It’s not enough to say that governments will fix it. It’s not enough to say that somebody else will do it or some other company will or some other foundation.”
Public health experts such as Krishna Udayakumar, who leads Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center, applauded the latest donation.
“I think this is exactly the type of partnership that we had hoped to see — and that we need much more of,” Udayakumar told The Washington Post. “We need to be putting billions to tens of billions of dollars in play to acquire vaccines, but to also enhance the delivery capacity and capabilities and to generate demand.”
The African Union and the Africa CDC planned to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population by the end of 2022, but as of mid-June, less than 2% of Africa’s residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
At least five African nations had not administered a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of early June, according to the Africa CDC.
“The daily figures show clearly that the pandemic is still on the rise, and to defeat it Africa needs greater cooperation with everybody, including the governments, the community, the media and the development partners,” Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, said on the center’s website. “We need to equip, deploy and train more health care workers as quickly as possible, and we expect that there will be more cooperation and solidarity through PACT.”
U.S. President Joe Biden has agreed to donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. The U.S. also has pledged to buy 500 million vaccine doses to be donated to developing countries and the AU through COVAX, the global plan to distribute vaccines equitably.
U.S. billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a transplant surgeon who also owns the Los Angeles Times newspaper, announced in mid-May that he will commit about $210 million to help produce COVID-19 vaccines in his native South Africa.
There are fewer than 10 vaccine distributors in Africa, based in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. But most of those businesses handle packaging and labeling rather than manufacturing.