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Speeches & Transcripts January 27, 2021

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at the Virtual Meeting on the Africa COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Strategy

President Ramaphosa, Your excellencies, Honorable Ministers, and colleagues. Thank you for the invitation to this webinar.  I’d like to provide an update on the World Bank Group’s vaccination efforts.

COVID-19 has had a heavy toll on the people of Africa in terms of lives lost and the severe economic impact that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.  Tens of millions of people are falling into extreme poverty.  

The ongoing loss of human capital will have crippling long-term consequences -- through lost jobs and job training opportunities, school closures, missed vaccinations, the regression in health and nutrition, and elsewhere.

It’s vital to prioritize the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.  We estimate that every month of delay costs the African continent $13.8 billion in lost GDP.  That’s in addition to the loss of lives and human capital.

As President Ramaphosa emphasized, vaccinations are a huge undertaking for every country.  The World Bank can assist with many aspects including facilitating the procurement of vaccines.   Inoculating populations will require delivering the vaccines safely and effectively. Cold chain equipment, energy infrastructure, logistic, transport, community engagement and trained human resources are all key areas needed for effective deployment of vaccines.

Where there are gaps in readiness, we should work quickly to fill them.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last March, the Bank has committed $25 billion to African countries to support their health and economic recovery, and we expect to commit an additional $15 billion by June.     

Our Board has authorized up to $12 billion to support countries in their vaccination efforts.  We’ve begun taking individual vaccination programs through the Board.  Last week’s funding for Lebanon will help vaccinate over 2 million people, with vaccines are expected to arrive from the manufacturer in early February.

We’re preparing emergency vaccine financing projects in 21 countries in Africa, including DRC, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, Eswatini and Cabo Verde to name a few. The funds are available now, and for most African countries, the financing would be on grant or highly concessional terms. IFC is working to mobilize financing for vaccine production and therapeutics focused on developing countries.

In implementing our vaccines programs, we’re working directly with governments, including to finance their purchases from vaccine manufacturers and via COVAX. For deployment efforts, we’re working with partners such as the WHO and UNICEF.

I urge you to focus and prioritize efforts toward these funding programs, and not slow the momentum through complex contracts and intermediaries.  Our financing is available today and vaccine manufacturers are eager to work with countries on delivery dates and direct contracts.

Our Country Directors and Country Managers have been in contact with all of you.  We would encourage those countries that have not yet requested World Bank support to send a letter to their World Bank Country Director asking for support for vaccine procurement and deployment from the $12 billion facility. We look forward to receiving these letters so that our teams can expeditiously support you.

To conclude, we urge leaders of African countries to move quickly to secure vaccinations for their populations, and to avail themselves of the financing available from us and other partners to help with this. The World Bank Group stands ready to work swiftly with our clients and partners to respond to this pandemic.  Thank you.