Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said Africa has done better than expected in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.
While virtually addressing the Financial Times Africa Summit on Monday, the WHO chief said African countries have increased virus testing despite problems with access to testing kits.
"One of the few encouraging trends is in Africa, which has been less affected than other regions and is now the only region where cases are not increasing. The current downward trend is cause for optimism. However, just as with the rest of the world, Africa must remain vigilant with this virus," Ghebreyesus said.
He added that Africa's long experience in responding to infectious diseases means that a number of countries already have the expertise, laboratory infrastructure and networks of community health workers that are critical for containing COVID-19.
As this happened, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention and its partners launched the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative in a $100 million, four-year partnership. This is intended to expand access to next-generation genomic sequencing tools and expertise designed to strengthen public health surveillance and laboratory networks across Africa.
According to John Nkengasong, the Africa CDC director, this new initiative will build a continent-wide disease surveillance and laboratory network based on pathogen genomic sequencing.
The network will not only help identify and inform research and public health responses to COVID-19 and other epidemic threats, but also for endemic diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and other infectious diseases.
While calling on the world's biggest economies to step up in the global fight against the virus, Ghebreyesus added that the global COVID-19 pandemic can be overcome quickly if countries use the right tools.
"If we use the tools we have at hand properly, we can end the pandemic soon. If we don't, then it could linger with us, it could stay with us for a very long period," Ghebreyesus said.