‘Financing on the continent is huge challenge’

African Union’s commissioner for Agriculture, Water, Blue Economy, Rural Development and Lands, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, toured the country to appreciate the problems facing the AU’s Centre for Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases in Lilongwe which is in economic hardships following mainly poor cash flow from sales of its products mainly East Coast Fever vaccines it distributes across Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA had a chat with her to hear more about the mission. Excerpts:

Correia Sacko: We have a crisis on our hands

Q

: First tell me, what has brought you to Malawi?

A

: I came to Malawi to do an assessment of the Centre of Tick and Tick Bourne Diseases which is undergoing financial challenges. Challenges are so intense that they have reached the extent where staff members haven’t been receiving their salaries for about six months.

Q

: So what do you intend to do?

A

: I am taking the findings to the chairperson of the AUC who sent me here. My appreciation about this is positive but we really need to solve this issue urgently because no human being can work without a salary and I tell you that we have a crisis on our hands.

The centre also has some scientific researches and if we are to stop it means the researches will have to be interrupted if they haven’t been already and we may have to start all over again which will be counterproductive. This is our problem and we need to get African solutions for this African problem.

Q

: Is it really important to save the centre?

A

: This is a profitable business. Vaccines have been produced on this continent. We own this technology and the staff that are there are experienced and good at what they do. I had an opportunity to visit the centre which has the latest generation of technology. It actually is cheaper for our member countries to buy those vaccines from this centre than to get them from elsewhere outside the continent which would be expensive.

The issue is financial sustainability and I am taking these findings to Addis Ababa for solutions, we need a proper feasibility study to find out which model works best for the centre’s sustainability.

Q

: Who has been financing this centre and how did the funding stop?

A

: This centre is as good as an old person because the idea of opening it was hatched during the time of Organisation of African Unity [OAU] in 1979 which is about 50 years ago, so I believe that member countries were contributing. There have also been partners such as the European Union [EU]. It carried on all along like this.

So now the AU is going through reform after we came out with a new paradigm of doing things then we are thinking that we need to look for better ways of sustaining these kind of centres because we still need them on the continent.

Q

: How will AU save this centre?

A

: You know these are the kind of areas that are usually discriminated on financing on the continent. When we go to Europe people live on research, it is an area that is given a lot of support and it brings returns. So this centre has already achieved some level of response in terms of addressing this disease of East Coast Fever in this part of the continent. If we say that this centre must go then we are definitely going to lose out.

The AU Agenda 2063 is an ambitious agenda for the Africa we want. And if we look at the tendency of the market, there is an increasing demand of food because Africa is going to have 2.4 billion people by 2030, who will definitely need protein from animals. This is why we need to take this centre as a serious investment on the continent.

Q

: Malawi was hit by floods last month and the effects of Cyclone Idai have been felt in the South. What is your reaction?

A

: I took the opportunity of my being here to also meet the Minister of Homeland Security; I met the Principal Secretary of Home Affairs Ministry to look at the impact of Cyclone Idai. As AU we are preparing a visit to the three countries that were hit by Cyclone Idai. We discussed with the ministry to find out how far they have gone to rescuing the flood victims. So far, we present our condolences to Malawi government and all families of the victims.

Q

: What should Malawi  do to avoid future loss to natural disasters such as this one?

A

: There is also a lot of economic loss such as crops when floods strike. We may not control natural calamities such as these but if we can prepare ourselves to mitigate the impact it would be much better. It is in this direction that my department in charge of Environment is driving to because there is commitment by the Heads of State to build resilience on the continent. n

Share This Post