The inaugural Conference on Public Health in Africa is an expression of our continent’s commitment to forging a new public health order for Africa.

I commend the African Union Commission, led by Chairperson Moussa Faki, as well as Africa CDC under the leadership of Dr John Nkengasong, for not allowing this moment to pass us by without clearly articulating Africa’s needs and ambitions.

The new public health order has four components, where we have already made good progress, but need to do much more and do so faster.

First, we must continue to build the capabilities and professionalism of our continental health bodies. Africa CDC has provided clear leadership throughout the pandemic, and helped many of our countries access tests, protective equipment, and vaccines. Strive Masiyiwa has also made critical contributions, and I wanted to thank him.

The African Medicines Agency (AMA) has now come into force, and once established, it will allow Africa to provide emergency use authorization for vaccines and pharmaceuticals without intermediaries. It is important to speed up the implementation of the AMA, and to see more Member States ratify its statute.

Second, there needs to be a renewed commitment by governments and national parliaments to increase domestic financing for health in Africa. This has been a priority of the African Union for several years, but progress has not been fast enough. We cannot continue to rely on external funding for something so important to our future.

Third, and closely linked to this, is the need to invest much more in national health systems. The ability to implement critical health programs, including regular mass vaccination campaigns, depends on the quality of national health services, and the trust that the public has in them.

And finally, let’s continue to work together to implement the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing.

This historic initiative, launched in April this year by our Chairperson, President Tshisekedi, has already catalysed new vaccine manufacturing initiatives in various African countries.

Building manufacturing capacity is the only way to ensure that Africa does not remain at the back of the queue for life-saving medicines.

The uncertainty around the new Omicron variant proves that the pandemic is far from over. We must remain vigilant, and act with a sense of urgency and purpose, both as a continent, and together with our partners around the world.

I wish you a successful conference and thank you for giving me this opportunity and for your kind attention.