Author: Kathryn Nash
During the global COVID-19 pandemic, the shortcomings and inequities in the global health system were amplified. International actors lost faith in the major global health institutions, and there was intense competition amongst states for critical supplies and vaccines. During these challenging circumstances, the African Union (AU) and its specialized technical institute (now autonomous agency) the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), led a multi-faceted response to combat COVID-19 in Africa and advocate for the African region globally. Beyond responding to the immediate crisis, the AU and Africa CDC recognized that Africa would need to build its capacity to respond to future public health security threats. They embraced the idea of the New Public Health Order for Africa to build public health institutions and workforces, expand manufacturing of critical medical supplies, increase public health resources, and build balanced and respectful partnerships (“Call to Action: Africa’s New Public Health Order” 2022). In the years since the emergence of COVID-19, the AU and Africa CDC seized on the momentum created by the pandemic to build public health institutions and to take concrete action to begin to implement their vision for a New Public Health Order for Africa.
This article focuses on how the response of the AU and Africa CDC to COVID-19 is driving an evolution in public health within Africa and the emerging impacts on global health governance more generally. It demonstrates that Africa is creating a space between state-based public health and global health governance by regionalizing public health to enhance Africa’s capacity and agency.