President Paul Kagame has called for renewed commitment from African governments and national parliaments to increase domestic financing for health in Africa. He made the remarks on Tuesday, December 14, during the first international Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2021), organized by the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). “This has been a priority of the African Union (AU) 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,” he said. Convening for three days, the conference has brought together health experts from different backgrounds to discuss how to accelerate progress against Covid-19 and chart a new path forward for public health on the continent. This comes at a time when Covid-19 has strained health systems globally, and with dangerously limited access to vaccines across Africa, revealing inequities in access to healthcare and scientific innovations. It is reported that less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10 per cent of the adult population by September 30, while nearly 90 per cent of high income-countries met this target. As of Monday, December 13, Rwanda had over 32 per cent of the population vaccinated. However, across the continent, the picture is grim. As of December 3, only 7 per cent of the African population was fully vaccinated, this is while many countries face a surge in new infections and the emergence of Omicron variant, initially discovered in South Africa. Kagame highlighted the need to invest in the quality of national health systems which will enhance the ability to implement critical health programs, including regular mass vaccination campaigns as reflected from the public’s trust. He said that the uncertainty around the new variant proves that the pandemic is far from over, pointing out that “building manufacturing capacity is the only way to ensure that Africa does not remain at the back of the queue for life-saving medicines.” Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of AU Commission, said that despite the many challenges brought about by Covid-19, it has also created an opportunity to build a new public health order that can effectively fight against future health crises. “We will create a new benchmark for collective efforts and participation as we advance public health in practice, education, training, and research in Africa. To achieve this new public health order, we must strengthen our partnerships and collaboration to further course our own future.” Kagame reiterated the importance of ratifying the statute and speeding up the implementation of the African Medicine Agency (AMA). “Once established, it will allow Africa to provide emergency use authorization for vaccines and pharmaceuticals without intermediaries,” he said. AMA is a specialized agency of the AU intended to facilitate the harmonization of medical products regulation throughout the AU in order to improve access to quality, safe and efficacious medical products on the continent. The agency is expected to have a wide scope covering medical products – medicines (including traditional and ‘modern’ ones), vaccines, blood and blood products, diagnostics and medical devices.