By Ifeoma Asika
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) , and its partners have approved an AATB Programme Action Plan to support African and Arab countries to strengthen their socio-economic resilience in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to ITFC, the 4th Executive Committee meeting of the AATB Programme, held virtually, was attended by heads of member institutions including Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and ICIEC as well as senior officials from other members such as from Afreximbank and Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).
AATB has the mandate of driving regional economic integration between the African and Arab regions and strengthening SME export development across key sectors. With the present crisis, member organizations will realign all existing financing engagements towards a range of interim and medium-term measures that respond directly to the needs of both regions.
With the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors prioritized, immediate measures include supporting the Network of Laboratories in West Africa with the supply of COVID-19 testing kits, lab equipment and personal -protection equipment (PPE) for medical and para medical staff. In tandem with material and financial aid, African laboratories will be able to access critical knowhow through a range of capacity building and knowledge sharing programmes including online trainings, protocols and standard operating procedure (SOP) to diagnose and manage the coronavirus.
Other measures will be aimed at enhancing the resilience of the health institutions in African and Arab countries by improving the capacities of national pharmaceutical agencies and related institutions in the areas of management, standards and procurement best practices. With the healthcare systems in many African countries left vulnerable, AATB, in partnership with the relevant African entities, will focus on harmonizing pharmaceutical standards in Africa and improving market access for pharmaceutical products.
“In this unprecedented situation our institutions have no choice but to be agile, innovative and results oriented. We are collectively committed to work hand in hand with governments, development partners and all other stakeholders.”, said DG BADEA and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the AATB Programme, Dr. Sidi Ould Tah.
Commenting on the meeting outcomes, ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol said: “The AATB programme partners have moved swiftly to realign priorities and redirect support towards African and Arab countries that are most vulnerable to the impending socio-economic impact from this pandemic. With existing initiatives focused on trade integration and capacity development in the highly critical sectors of pharmaceuticals and agri-foods, we will do everything we can over the coming period to aid the governments from both these regions to limit hardship.”
Since the inception of the AATB programme, pharmaceuticals have been prioritized as a key sector for regional trade integration. To date, trade initiatives under the programme have resulted in US$150 million worth of transactions.
The vast AATB network of pharmaceutical buyers and sellers will play a key role in ensuring the steady supply of products where they are needed most during this period.