The new financial intermediary fund (FIF) for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR) was officially established by the FIF Governing Board at its inaugural meeting on 8-9 September 2022.
The fund is envisaged to provide a dedicated stream of additional, long-term financing to strengthen PPR capabilities in low- and middle-income countries and address critical gaps through investments and technical support at the national, regional, and global levels. Although the Fund is planned to draw from the strengths and comparative advantages of key institutions engaged in Pandemic Prevention and Response, provide complementary support, improve coordination among partners, incentivise increased country investments, serve as a platform for advocacy, and help focus and sustain much-needed, high-level attention on strengthening health systems. We in the Global South particularly Africa are not tree from being sceptical given the experiences of the last two years of the global response to COVID-19.
It took much of Africa almost two years to access COVID-19 vaccines, and new COVID therapeutics until now are not available in much of sub-Saharan Africa. There are many fundamental barriers but notable is the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regulation that hinders technology transfer to regions like Africa. Intended as an IP protection measure, and later modified to affirm that patent rules should be flexibly implemented to promote public health and medicine for all. TRIPS has again come under scrutiny in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as the challenges the agreement was meant to handle persist- protecting IP rights while negotiating public-health promotion in the face of high market patented medicine costs, delayed market entry of generics and market exclusivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the limitations of patent-based restrictions where the hesitancy of large multinational pharmaceuticals in realising knowledge to produce necessary medications and products left most of us in low-income nations far behind richer countries in both procuring and producing vaccines for local use.
If the #FIF for Pandemic Prevention and Response isn’t going to support the strengthening of capabilities of developing countries to locally manufacture medical and biological materials, take lead in their research, and reduce dependency on global North pharmaceutical institutions, we don’t see much difference that is going to come from this initiative, old neocolonial structures and power asymmetries are most likely to be sustained.
The notion that the developing world must depend on the leadership and goodwill of the developed is so disheartening. The #FIF is preparing to operate within the old colonial meta-system, and we don’t think a lot will be achieved. Quickly it will degenerate into old “politricks” and power fights among G20 or G19. Then countries will start their old fight and then de-fund it as the US did recently or retreat to their local efforts. Then efforts like those by #AfroCDC will wither or lose supporters.
The G20 to us isn’t a platform we would trust to push this global human endeavor because it’s too political and fond of engaging in squabbles. We would instead advocate for the establishment of a worldwide jointly agreed mechanism where all countries participate, contribute and decide collectively on how to fund global future pandemics.
The talk about participation, how will the voices of the smallest African countries be guaranteed since they’re not members of G20? We don’t want the G20 to take the responsibility of saving us from future pandemics. Their benevolence can’t be trusted, and their politics are seasonal and subordinate to capital.
Our critical recommendations
- Address systematic challenges that have made Africa susceptible to shocks. For example limited resources access, trade barriers, capital flight etc.
- Support local manufacturing for all pharmaceutical materials including vaccines, therapeutic and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients