World Bank approves SA’s R7.6bn loan for Covid vaccines

The World Bank has approved a €454.4 million (about R7.6 billion) loan to South Africa for the country’s Covid Emergency Response Project.

Approved by the Bank’s group board of executive directors on Monday, the loan comes following a request by the SA government for assistance in financing vaccine procurement contracts. In a joint statement, the World Bank and the National Treasury said this project will retroactively finance the procurement of 47 million vaccine doses.

“South Africa is the epicentre of the Covid pandemic in Africa, with the highest cumulative numbers of infections and deaths.

“By supporting the country’s Covid vaccination programme, the project will help the government better cope with the pandemic, as the country experiences its fifth wave, and support the government to create the fiscal space needed to strengthen its health system and ensure financial and institutional sustainability.”

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SA’s robust vaccination programme has seen 36.4 million doses having been administered, with about 50.3% of adults and 29.9% of 12 to 17-year-old adolescents vaccinated, as at 13 June.

However, they said, more can be done to increase vaccine coverage, curb the spread of the virus, and boost the country’s economic recovery. Along with the Genomic Surveillance Project, the Covid Emergency Response Project forms part of World Bank’s expanded support for South Africa’s response to the pandemic.

The surveillance project seeks to improve the capacity to identify variants of Sars-CoV-2 in South Africa and the Africa region. Treasury said the loan forms part of government’s efforts to reduce debt service costs by making use of cheaper sources of funding through multilateral development banks.

“It also supports the health system to respond to Covid through the roll-out of vaccines, critical research, and treatment measures,” says Ismail Momoniat, National Treasury acting director-general.