In 2001, the African Union (AU) member states signed the Abuja Declaration, thereby pledging to allocate at least 15% of their national budgets each year to improving their healthcare systems. To this day, fulfilling this pledge has been a struggle for the Southern African Development Community member states. Having caused unprecedented damage, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wakeup call for the region. It also presents a unique opportunity for governments to critically examine their healthcare systems with a view to buttressing them against COVID-19 as it continues to play out and any possible future crisis. Although there has been a groundswell of political and public support in SADC for more funding to go to healthcare, governments need to find new and innovative sources of funds, particularly in the face of a declining regional economy. Proposed options include forming a regional (supplementary) fund, strengthening local finance-generating mechanisms (such as improving tax compliance) and involving civil society organisations in ensuring transparency in governments’ use of funds.