Museveni preaches health, security gospel in America

President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | PPU

What you need to know:

  • The Ugandan leader, according to the official programme, was to speak on the theme “partnering for sustainable health cooperation” alongside his Botswanan and Moroccan counterparts.

President Museveni was by press time expected to address the United States-Africa Leaders’ Forum, which opened in Washington yesterday, about global health and security.

The Ugandan leader, according to the official programme, was to speak on the theme “partnering for sustainable health cooperation” alongside his Botswanan and Moroccan counterparts.

Washington hopes the engagement would “deepen partnership and strengthen cooperation around shared health priorities” and explore ways of sustainable financing, innovation, and health system strengthening.

Among key areas of interest are partnerships to build “resilient health systems and strengthen health security and investing in the health workforce to build more resilient health systems”.

State House sources intimated to this newspaper that President Museveni, a security doyen of the West in the restive Great Lakes Region, will offer Uganda’s successes against violent groups and in fighting epidemic including Covid-19 and lately Ebola Viral Disease (EVD).

While flagging the possibility of future health crisis, Mr Museveni is expected to outline what his government has done to build surveillance capacity to detect, prevent and respond to emergencies.

Sources further said the President will recognise external support extended to Uganda, and pitch for international cooperation while underlining the significance of research and development for Africa to benefit from the pathogen economy.

He is expected to underline the significance of vaccination in safeguarding the population from epidemics in line with his decree at home a fortnight ago, banning individuals who are not double-jabbed and with a booster shot from attending formal meetings.

Earlier in the day, the United States pledged to support more African entrepreneurs, including investing $300m (Shs1.1 trillion), to build data centres across the continent to improve Internet connectivity and infrastructure.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, while welcoming the African innovators at the ongoing US-Africa Leaders’ Summit at Benjamin Franklin room in Washington, said Africa has a lot of innovators and young people that must be supported to realise their full potentials.

He said the US administration’s strategy is rooted in the recognition that the United States and African nations can’t deliver on any of their fundamental needs and aspirations for people, and can’t solve any of the really big challenges they face, if the US and Africa don’t work together.

“So it’s about what we can do with African nations and people - not for them. Our strategy reflects the region’s diversity, its influence, and - as we can see tonight - the ingenuity of its young people,” Mr Blinken said, adding: “Those youth are a growing part of the continent’s population - and also the world’s.  Today, more than 60 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25.  By 2030, two in every five people on this planet will be African.”

These rising generations, he observed, are powering dynamic economic growth in their countries and far beyond. He noted that African startups last year raised $5 billion in investment, up from $350m in 2016. The top American diplomat said “... it’s one thing to rattle off statistics, it’s another thing to meet these change-makers, as I’ve had the chance to do as Secretary, from Dakar (in Senegal) to Johannesburg (in South Africa), from Nairobi (in Kenya) to Kinshasa (in DRC).”

Mr Blinken said these entrepreneurs are not just running successful businesses, but solving some of the most pressing problems such as closing healthcare gaps and helping entrepreneurs break into the formal economy.

“We have a huge stake in the success of African innovators, because when they are empowered to reach their full potential, it’s good for the region, it’s good for the continent, it’s good for the world, it’s good for America,” he said.

According to the Secretary of State, the US government is investing in the infrastructure that provides the foundation for African entrepreneurship by creating more pathways for the free flow of ideas, information, and investment.

“Africa has around twice as many Internet users as the United States, yet the continent has only a fraction of our data centre space.  What does that mean?  Slower, less reliable connectivity.  That’s why our US Development Finance Corporation is investing $300 million in building data centres across the continent - because we need networks that can keep up with the lightning pace of new ideas,” he said.

Mr Blinken made the remarks at the African and Diaspora Youth Leaders’ Forum, also held in Washington D.C, which connects talented and enterprising young people in Africa with counterparts across the Atlantic.

The US engagement with African youth spans professions and decades, including through education, diplomacy, security and entrepreneurship collaborations.

For instance, under the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) initiated by President Barack Obama’s administration, nearly 5,800 trailblazers from across Sub-Saharan Africa have visited US for academic and leadership training, helping them to, among others, hone their skills.

Secretary Blinken yesterday said many of the Mandela Washington Fellows, the revised name of YALI, are entrepreneurs who are transforming the continent.

In September, the US African Development Foundation teamed up with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to create a new programme to provide financing, technical assistance, and mentorship to emerging innovators in Africa.

The American government recently launched another initiative to connect up-and-coming climate entrepreneurs with American companies.

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State’s remarks

Health threats such as Covid-19, Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and many others continue to demonstrate that health security is national security. A virus can spread quickly across borders and around the globe, endangering lives, disrupting how countries and communities function every day, and impacting our safety, security, and stability – here at home and in every part of the world.

Recognising the scope and potential scale of these challenges, after careful review, I notified Congress [yesterday] of my intention to establish the Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy to ensure the Department is well-organised to strengthen global health security and to address the growing national security challenges presented by global health crises.

I intend to ask our current US Global Aids Coordinator, renowned public health leader Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, to be the first head of the new bureau.

Specifically, the establishment of the new Bureau would bring together the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and the functions of the Coordinator for Global Covid-19 Response and Health Security with the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, which leads and coordinates the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and is home to the Office of Global Health Diplomacy.

These teams, along with critical partners throughout the government, are already leading our international global health security efforts, and their indispensable functions will continue.

This new structure would allow our health security experts and diplomats to work more effectively together to prevent, detect, and respond to existing and future health threats.

I look forward to working with Congress on our plans for establishing the Department’s Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy.