The World Bank Group's COVID-19 Response in Africa

PatePhoto: Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population World Bank Group

On Tuesday April 28, 2020, Corporate Council on Africa hosted a webinar featuring Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank Group, on the World Bank's $14 billion package supporting private sector companies and national public health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on their efforts in Africa.

In response to COVID-19, the World Bank has provided a $160 billion package for long-term support of country COVID relief efforts over the next 15 months. This package aims to help the emergency health response, protect the poorest households, save jobs and businesses, and shorten economic recovery time. The package includes a $14 billion fast-track fund, $8 billion of which is dedicated to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and private sector response and $6 billion to support country responses to the pandemic.

The IFC's $8 billion package consists of four financing facilities: $2 billion supports critical industries, $2 billion limits trade financing risk, $2 billion provides working capital, and $2 billion supports local banks. The $6 billion for country support is made of $4 billion new funds and $2 billion repurchased from existing WB resources, with $1.3 billion of the $4 billion from the International Development Association (IDA), and $2.7 billion from the International bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Through their Global Finance Facility (GFF), a multi-donor facility, the World Bank supports 36 countries to ensure a continuity of basic services.

The World Bank response in the health space includes contact tracing, implementation of social distance measures, strengthening health system capabilities, improving communications, providing social and financial support to households, building infrastructure, supporting multinational institutions, and engaging communities.

A key issue for the COVID-19 response for African countries is their limited ability to acquire equipment to protect their frontline health workers. According to Dr. Pate, this is because wealthier countries are holding onto the limited supplies in the market. In response, World Bank will provide facilitated procurement support where they will match the demand from countries with supplies. Also, in addition to their own efforts, World Bank has partnered with other multilateral development banks, including AfDB, and bilateral agencies, in co-financing and extending knowledge and technical support to help countries counter COVID-19 and improve their health systems.

In his closing statements, Dr. Pate acknowledged the major role that non-profits have played alongside the private sector in service delivery and believes that they can be part of the solution to unleashing the health sector market potential. Also, in pointing out the importance of digital health, Dr. Pate recognized the unequal global access to digital technology and confirmed that the World Bank is in conversations on how to provide platforms for digital technology across all sectors in Africa.

In her closing remarks, Florie Liser, CEO and President of Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), stated CCA’s position as a platform to provide vital information during the pandemic, and affirmed its continued partnership between U.S. and African governments to address health and economic needs.