Meet Honourable Michel Sidibé, Special Envoy for the Africa Medicine Agency (AMA), African Union (AU), Co-Chair of the Virchow Foundation for Global Health Council
Michel Sidibé has championed a people-centred approach to health and development for over 40 years. He is a renowned tireless champion of African-owned solutions and has been an outspoken advocate for local pharmaceutical production of medicines and other essential health commodities. Honourable Sidibé significantly contributed to the efforts towards access to quality and safe medicines and vaccines and in fighting global inequities. In April 2021, Michel Sidibé was appointed African Union Special Envoy for the Africa Medicine Agency (AMA). Thanks to his high-level advocacy efforts, the treaty entered into force more promptly than expected on November 5, 2021. From 2009-2019, he served as Executive Director of UNAIDS, holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Prior to joining UNAIDS, Honourable Michel Sidibé worked at UNICEF and for Terre des Hommes, where his passion for advancing global health and social justice began. Under his leadership at UNAIDS, more than 25 million people started life saving HIV treatment. A former Minister of Health and Social Affairs for Mali from 2019-2020, Sidibé has promoted health as an entry point for peace and security building. In 2021 he was appointed a board member of The Global Commission on Drug Policy. An economist by training, Michel Hamala Sidibé is the recipient of various African and global awards, including honorary doctorates from world’s leading universities. From 2009-2019, he served as Executive Director of UNAIDS, holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Prior to joining UNAIDS, Honourable Michel Sidibé worked at UNICEF and for Terre des Hommes, where his passion for advancing global health and social justice began. Under his leadership at UNAIDS, more than 25 million people started life saving HIV treatment. A former Minister of Health and Social Affairs for Mali from 2019-2020, Sidibé has promoted health as an entry point for peace and security building. In 2021 he was appointed a board member of The Global Commission on Drug Policy.
From your perspective, why is engagement and awareness raising for global health important?
Our human planet is facing an unprecedented global health crisis that has spread suffering and disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of people. On every continent, countries face enormous pressure, as long-standing gaps in public health are exposed, and inequalities and injustices multiply. We have an overwhelming challenge ahead: reshaping our global health institutions to align with a radically different landscape.
We are in a defining moment in Africa!
COVID-19 has highlighted the need for stronger manufacturing capacity in Africa, paired with reliable procurement of locally manufactured products. From the onset of the pandemic, limited local supply of diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, and other products has caused delays in access across the continent. Africa has to be part of the on-going conversations on the need to building a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations.
Africa, especially, has a difficult fight!
Long-term economic development has been constantly undermined by poor health systems and a high level of disease. Just 2% of the world’s doctors live in Sub-Saharan Africa. And many of the countries in the continent have just one doctor for up to 40,000 people, and five or fewer intensive care beds per 100,000 people. Health spending can reach up to 40% of household income in some African countries. Investments in health is key – there is need for building new solutions – from infrastructure to capacity development and building new health workforce to building digital health and telemedicine to new financial tools including health insurance to make this viable. Our main challenge is to generate and harness the much-needed political attention to health, as a priority for the continent’s long-term prosperity.
How are you committed to engaging in global health topics within your current professional role and activities?
The level of dependence on externally manufactured goods is problematic, as access to COVID-19 vaccines has reminded Africans. Local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in the continent is, therefore, no longer an option. In fact, the continent produces only 3% of the medicines consumed by its people. Pharmaceutical supply chains have multiple intermediaries, contributing to the fact that drugs sold in Sub- Saharan Africa are often the most expensive in the world. In addition, Africa has the highest prevalence of substandard and falsified medicines (30%). These challenges have largely been attributed to weak or absent drug regulatory systems, with unclear policies and incomplete or inconsistent legal and regulatory frameworks. Acting at this level is therefore critically important. Africa´s leaders have made development of the pharmaceutical industry a key priority, as enshrined in the African Union´s Vision 2063, ´The Africa We Want´. Increasing the local manufacturing of vaccine, medicines and therapeutics requires partnerships between governments and companies for additional investments in science, technology, and innovation to improve health, spur economic growth, and reduce poverty across the continent. As African Union Special Envoy for the establishment of the African Medicine Agency, I am strongly committed to continue advocating for three transformative actions:
- Establish protective regulatory context for developing Hubs of Excellence for the production of vaccines, medicines and therapeutics
- Africanize Research and Development while galvanizing innovation and transfer of technology
- Mutualize competencies and think in terms of economies of scale.
How do you hope to achieve greater awareness and engagement for global health in your new role at the Virchow Foundation for Global Health? How can the Virchow Prize for Global Health help to increase awareness?
I am privileged to serve as Co-Chair of the Virchow Foundation for Global Health Council. The Foundation offers a unique platform to advocate for a transformative global agenda grounded in health equity and social justice, powerful scientific and medical tools, partnerships with governments, scientists, international organisations and civil society, and programmes that work to advance global health. I am convinced that the prestigious Virchow Prize for Global Health will contribute significantly to raising awareness and incentivising innovation to address critical public health challenges that Africa and the world are facing. I look forward to working with the other eminent members of the Council on this exciting endeavour.
Meet the Members of the Virchow Foundation for Global Health Council: www.virchowprize.org/council/