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KIGALI (Reuters) - Africa must wean itself off dependence on food and medicine imports, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said, as the institution approved creation of a pharmaceutical tech foundation and began processing requests for food relief.
Africa was hit hard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as many countries are still struggling to rebound, they are facing rising inflation and food shortages aggravated by the war in Ukraine.
"Africa should not allow itself to be vulnerable in excessively depending on others, whether it is for vaccines or whether it is for food," AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Kigali.
"The fact is that when you are dependent on others, you are also very highly vulnerable to any shock of any kind."
The bank last month approved a $1.5 billion financing facility for emergency food production, with the aim of averting a looming food crisis. The funds are meant to help 20 million farmers produce 38 million tonnes of food.
Adesina said the bank had already received requests from countries to draw on the fund.
"Once those things come to our board, they are swiftly reviewed and approved, and the money is out at the door," he said.
Meanwhile, the AfDB's board this week approved the creation of a new Africa Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.
Adesina said the foundation would allow Africa to leverage intellectual property rights, protected technologies and innovations to expand Africa's pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing sectors.
"Africa imports 80% to 90% of all its medicines for a population of 1.3 billion people. We cannot and we must not outsource the health security of Africa to the benevolence of others," he said.
The World Trade Organization last week agreed on a partial waiver of intellectual property rights to allow developing countries to produce and export COVID-19 vaccines.
(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Joe Bavier and Bradley Perrett)