African Union and U.S. aim to improve public health in Africa

African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands after signing a memorandum of cooperation. (State Dept.)

The United States is committed to African health.

The latest proof is a new agreement with the African Union (AU) that will help establish the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Signed by Secretary of State John Kerry and AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in Washington on April 13, the memorandum of cooperation lends the expertise of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to African health officials.

“Under the new memorandum, our CDC will provide expert technical help to support a surveillance and response unit and an emergency operations center,” Kerry said.

The CDC will also offer fellowships to African epidemiologists who work with the new African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Coordinating Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. CDC Director Tom Frieden said in an April 13 press release that the 2014 Ebola outbreak proved the need for greater health cooperation across Africa.

“This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the United States to advance public health across Africa and global health security,” Frieden said.

In response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the United States sent 3,000 military personnel to build treatment centers and help health workers. Overall, the United States contributed $1 billion to ease the crisis and continues working with all parties today.

America’s commitment to Africa goes beyond public health. The United States encourages economic expansion with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), youth empowerment through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and cooperation with the African Union.

“We believe that Africa has enormous capacity — unique on the planet, really — for both political and economic growth and development, and we know that the African Union is going to play an absolutely critical role in shaping that growth and that development,” Kerry said.