COVID-19 in Africa

Online event: Economic Interests in the Shadow of the Pandemic

Time and location

Thursday, 18 June 2020
17:00 – 18:30 hrs (CEST)

Language: English

Zoom link will be sent after personal registration one day before the event.


  • Raji Tajudeen, Head of Public Health Institutes and Research at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention - Africa CDC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Africa Kiiza, trade expert, program director SEATINI, Kampala/Uganda
  • Marcus Bachmann, pandemic and public  health expert, Doctors Without Borders (MFS)
  • Moderation: Rita Isiba, Aphropean, Vienna
  • Welcome: Franz Schmidjell, VIDC

© istock_Adeyinka Yusuf

(Text nur auf Englisch verfügbar) Africa’s response to the Coronavirus seems to be remarkable. Decisive and quick measures have flattened the curve of new infections in many countries. But experts question if the available data reflect the realities on the ground. Moreover, there is a risk that existing trade and intellectual property regimes will prioritise profit interests of pharmaceutical companies over people’s health and limit the access to drugs and possible vaccines. We will elaborate on the current situation in different African regions and discuss practical challenges for the public health systems.

By June 8, 190,000 people were infected with COVID-19 and 4,175 people have died (for comparison: 380,000 malaria deaths in 2018). Reasons given for the low case numbers by international comparison include the experience of African societies with epidemics, the rapid response of health institutions, reduced international contacts (e.g. air travel) and the low proportion of older people. However, reports from doctors, hospitals or funeral homes show that the actual figures might be much higher.

Fragile health infrastructures as well as limited access to drugs and possible future vaccinations pose risks in the fight against pandemics. Due to intellectual property rights, protected by (EU) trade agreements and WTO regimes, those are expensive and therefore not affordable for many people in the Global South. The Trade Committee in the European Parliament has therefore already called on EU Trade Commissioner Hogan to examine possibilities for cheaper access to medicines in the Global South in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the event, we want to talk - among others - about the following questions:

  • What is the current situation about the COVID-19 pandemic in the African regions?
  • How credible are the available COVID-19 data?
  • What are the new strategies by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the main African health institution? 
  • Are (WTO) trade regimes biased towards supporting the pharmaceutical industry rather than securing access to medicine for all?



Raji Tajudeen

is a Medical Doctor with postgraduate qualifications in Pediatrics and Public Health. He is the Head of Public Health Institutes and Research at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the public health agency of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He coordinates the establishment and strengthening of National Public Health Institutes across the 55 African Union Member States and oversees the establishment of the five Africa CDC Regional Collaborating Centers. He has years of senior level experience in Child Health, Health System Management, Health Diplomacy, Maternal and Child Health, and Health in Humanitarian Emergencies. He has worked in different settings in the developing world; Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. Raji Tajudeen heads the healthcare preparedness and countermeasures section of the Africa CCD COVID-19 response and co-chairs the case management technical working group of the Africa Taskforce on COVID-19.

Africa Kiiza

is Program Officer Trade Policies & Negotiations Programme at the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI, Uganda). He has research and advocacy experience on issues ranging from WTO Negotiations, the Economic Partnerships Agreement (EU AU EPA), the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Uganda, the the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Negotiations and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)-EU Post Cotonou Negotiations

Marcus Bachmann

is the advocacy & humanitarian affairs representative of “Doctors Without Borders” in Vienna (MSF Austria). He is a natural scientist with many years of professional experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Between 2005 and 2019 he was on numerous missions with MSF, among others in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. He coordinated emergency relief activities in a variety of contexts - from natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods to epidemics such as Ebola and cholera.

Rita Isiba

is a moderator and communication expert. In 2016, she founded Aphropean Partners, a specialised communication agency to provide decision-makers, NGOs and government agencies a natural extension of marketing to streamline the process of change management for the future of work, cultural and gender diversity management in the workplace and society. Previously, she has worked for various UN agencies, marketing agencies and investment banks, including leading to West Africa. Rita Isiba graduated from Hertfordshire University, England with a degree in Business and European Studies and Masters of Business Administration at the Heriot-Watt University (both in the UK). She obtained a certification in business consultancy by Oxford College.