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AfDB unveils $10 billion to curb COVID-19 in Africa

[By Ernest Chanda and Christopher Miti]

THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has created a US $10 billion response facility aimed at assisting regional member countries in fighting the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, some truck drivers at Chanida border post between Zambia and Mozambique have resisted to go to the quarantine Centre in Katete due to lack of resources.

Announcing the facility, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said the package took into account the fiscal challenges that many African countries were facing.

The facility is the latest measure taken by the Bank to respond to the pandemic and would be the institution’s primary channel for its efforts to address the crisis.

“Africa is facing enormous fiscal challenges to respond to the coronavirus pandemic effectively. The African Development Bank Group is deploying its full weight of emergency response support to assist Africa at this critical time. We must protect lives. This Facility will help African countries to fast-track their efforts to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19,” said Adesina on Wednesday. “These are extraordinary times, and we must take bold and decisive actions to save and protect millions of lives in Africa. We are in a race to save lives. No country will be left behind.”

He said the facility entailed $5.5 billion for sovereign operations in AfDB countries, and $3.1 billion for sovereign and regional operations for countries under the African Development Fund, the Bank Group’s concessional arm that caters for fragile countries.

Adesina said an additional $1.35 billion would be devoted to private sector operations.

And commenting on the facility, acting senior vice-president Swazi Tshabalala said: “The setting up of the facility required a collective effort and courage by all our staff, Board of Directors and our shareholders.”

Two weeks ago, the Bank launched a record-breaking $3 billion fight COVID-19 social bond, the world’s largest US dollar-denominated social bond ever on the international capital market.

And last week, the board of directors also approved a $2 million grant for the World Health Organisation’s efforts on the continent.

Meanwhile, the drivers opt to be quarantined at the border post where their trucks are instead of the Mphangwe quarantine centre.

Chadiza district commissioner George Phiri revealed this when Eastern Province minister Makebi Zulu toured Chanida border on Wednesday to check on the COVID-19 compliance levels.

“The drivers have been reluctant to go to Mphangwe which is the quarantine centre because they are saying they don’t have resources. They have opted to be quarantined where their trucks are because they have food and everything. But we have been pursuing them and just yesterday [Tuesday] some drivers and freight and services, about 12 of them, [were taken] to be quarantined,” Phiri said.

He said the drivers were complaining that they did not have money to pay for accommodation and food at the quarantine centre.

Phiri said no one had so far donated to the district administration to supplement the fight against COVID-19.

He said Chanida clearers 120 trucks per day but traffic has since reduced following COVID-19 outbreak.

Zulu said the district should continue engaging truck drivers and address the issue.

“It is important that we continue engaging the drivers so that we find a lasting solution. The inconvenience is to all of us, it inconveniences the economy, the family and everybody but we have to hear this inconvenience because COVID-19 is a major threat to all of us. We have seen countries that have been brought to their knees, countries that are better off economically than us,” he said.

He said he was happy with the compliance levels in the province.

Zulu said the only area where the province was not doing well was social distancing.

Zulu also interacted with one Mozambican driver to asses whether the drivers were conversant with the guidelines.

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