MONROVIA-Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Mawine G. Diggs has indicated that while “we continue to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as a global community, we should not lose sight of the menace caused by other diseases”.
The health systems in our respective countries must be made more resilient to be able to address and support current health needs as well as prevent the occurrence of future pandemics.
Minister Diggs pointed out that governments must also ensure that national expenditures are targeted towards improving health care infrastructures; creating enhanced health programs for women and children; and creating an environment that promotes overall increased access to health services for the general population.
Delivering the keynote address at the occasion of the African Leaders For Change Africa-Europe Week in Brussels, Belgium where she represents President George M. Weah, Minister Diggs noted that Liberia stands ready to support regional and international efforts to ensure the participation of the private sector in the building of a viable and strong health sector.
According to her, more than ever before, the private sector remains a catalyst for growth irrespective of the sector. Therefore, through public-private partnerships, our goal for a revived health sector can be quickly realized. This, she said, will also complement and support the function of governments and boost economic empowerment efforts for our youthful populations.
Exploring new opportunities with the private sector for investment in health care is the approach that every government in Africa must now adopt, she intoned.
Commerce Minister Diggs also added that it is a known fact that COVID-19 has already claimed more than 5 million lives globally. It has caused an unprecedented stall in Global supply-chains resulting in unemployment, economic instability, and other issues that have caused significant disruptions of value. Therefore, resulting in widening the existing inequalities between and within nations across the globe.
She said, Liberia, like many countries the world over continues to face the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to health care delivery. However, the Government of Liberia under the leadership of President George M. Weah instituted several early health measures which quickly curtailed the spread of the virus and allowed the country to maintain microeconomic stability.
These measures she said proved to be efficient as the number of cases dropped significantly, key commodities remained available and their prices stable. As a result, there is a positive growth rate projected by the World Bank and IMF for this fiscal year.
The Government of Liberia also promulgated regulations aimed at enhancing trade facilitation, supported our Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which remain a key segment of our economy and a major driver of economic growth.
Minister Diggs also threw out a challenge that as leaders “we must be cognizant of not focusing too much on the health and economic instability COVID-19 has imposed upon us in the last two years. Instead, we must remain engaged across governments and organizations such as yours to build a more resilient health sector capable enough to deal with what COVID 19 has taught us and one that allows us as individual nations to become self-sufficient and self-reliant”.
At this medium, let me join other leaders and advocates across Africa calling for the reverse in the present global inequities in access and distribution of vaccinations and the transfer of knowledge for the production of vaccines on the continent. “This”, adding, “I believe will address the immediate needs for more doses of the vaccines and increase the rate at which we put this pandemic under control
Minister Diggs observes that while it is true that Africa has strived to build resilience against the pandemic by implementing safe health protocols resulting in fewer deaths as compared to other regions, the continent is still way behind in its vaccine efficacy.
Our governments must now begin to collectively adopt a post-COVID-19 strategy aimed at consolidating our respective vaccination programs. Whether it requires investing in new research mechanisms or building the capacities of current ones, we must do so to solve our current health challenges.
She then stated: “I bring you greetings from Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of Liberia, who himself is currently engaged with activities of the AU-EU Summit and therefore is unable to join you here at this very important program”.
She said the renewed and strengthened ties between Africa and the EU must now, more than ever, be leveraged so that both sides can gain mutual benefits in the development of sustainable health systems. With the ties between the two continents in many areas becoming more extensive, knowledge and skill transfers of health professionals, equipment and intellectual property must not lag behind cooperation in other thematic sectors.
To put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and make our health systems more responsive to current and emerging threats, she noted, “We must ensure increased supply chain, a scale-up of vaccine and drug manufacturing on the African continent and ensure transfer of technology and know-how. We must also ensure that regional and international trade form a part of our recovery efforts”.
She furthered: “let me seize this opportunity to thank the leaders of both ECOWAS and AU for working assiduously and sparing no efforts in providing the necessary support required for free trade and improved business climates”, she maintains.
According to her, in recognizing the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also seize the new opportunities it has presented us. Such as opportunities to invest in new smart technologies, production of new drugs and increasing the number of startups in Fintech and other eCommerce ventures. She suggested that “we must now move fast to make sure that these are available as demand increases, she pointed out.
We must always remind ourselves, that in a pandemic, nobody is safe until everybody is. Nor shall we forget the impact the health of our nations has on the viability of our economies, Minister Diggs cautions.