More than one year after the launch of the global vaccination campaign and just two weeks before the EU-African Union summit, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to heavily impact health systems, economies and the day to day lives of citizens in both Africa and Europe.
As of 26/1/2022, cumulative repot COVID-19 cases per 1 million population are nearly 25 times higher in the European Union (EU) than in Africa
However, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa may be greatly under-estimated: according to World Health Organization (WHO), about only one in seven COVID-19 infections are being detected in Africa
Only seven out of 54 African countries have reached the 2021 year-end WHO target of fully vaccinating 40% of their people, compared to 26 out of the 27 EU countries
In her opening statements, JuttaUrpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships recalled the mantra that “When it comes to infectious diseases, none of us is safe until all of us are safe.” (09:24)
Summarising EU action in supporting the fight against COVID-19, she highlighted that “the EU has provided €46 billion to help 130 countries, 10 billion of which has gone to Africa.” (10:20)
However, she cautioned that “Equity demands more than donations,”(10:53) , noting that “around half the vaccines have so far reached Africa, and it remains key to ensure that they reach people’s arms”. (10:30)
She emphasised that as long as the general vaccination is still below 10% in Africa, “the whole international community has failed, because we haven’t done enough”. (40:09)
Looking forward, the Commissioner shared the EU’s goal to partner with Africa to support robust healthcare systems and pharmaceutical capabilities.
In the short term, the EU will “continue to support an urgent response to COVID-19 including the deployment of vaccines, with €100 million going towards supporting vaccine deployment in Africa.”(11:22)
For the longer term, the EU has already launched an initiative to support Africa’s local pharmaceutical goals with a particular attention to vaccines with the aim of boosting vaccine manufacturing on the continent to the tune of €1 billion with projects underway in Rwanda, Senegal, South-Africa and Ghana.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, provided an update of the current situation on the ground in Africa, describing how 11 million Africans have been infected by COVID-19 and a quarter of a million have died, albeit with significant regional disparities.
Moreover, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa may be greatly under-estimated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only one in seven COVID-19 infections are being detected in Africa.
Moeti went on to state that in the early phases of the pandemic, access to services related to HIV, tuberculosis, and family planning, amongst others, declined.
“We need to learn how to invest in peacetime. Much of what is happening today is happening in the context of crisis,”(22:14) she said, expressing the hope that by the next crisis Africa would be in a better situation in terms of access and resilience, with more robust health systems.
Tajudeen Raji, Head of the Division of Public Health Institutes and Research, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said that collaborating with partners including the WHO has been key to Africa’s success story on vaccination.
“Even before the first vaccination was approved, we knew that Africa would be at the end of the queue and that it would trickle down after everyone has taken their share,” (25:58) he said.
Raji mentioned the recent African Union heads of state meeting that discussed a report covering such questions as how Africa can strengthen health situations on the continent, increase human resources, and build local manufacturing capacity for vaccines.
Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director African Department, International Monetary Fund, “the deep economic case for having very strong manufacturing capacity is just a no-brainer and has to be pursued.” (01:35:53)
He advocated for capacity to be ramped up and called for “more open source sharing of technology, of knowhow, is going to be very important particularly in situations of pandemics and global emergencies.” (1:38:05)
“Pandemics can bring economies to their knees,” )01:41:02) he said, explaining that having resilience must be one of the big takeaways from this pandemic.
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, intervened to say that in his view the refusal to take vaccines is “a global phenomenon – there is nothing African about hesitancy”.(50:23)
He said “we were all disappointed also how Europe moved to protect its own pharmaceutical industry” (52:12) on the issue of intellectual property rights.
He also added that “We African also make mistakes and our health systems are weak. We spend 1.9% of GDP in our health systems, way below global coverage and our data collection is very weak.” (54:26)
Jutta Urpilainen countered that it is the obligation of politicians to look after their citizens, but also defended the EU, saying it had “shown solidarity” to Africa and partner countries.
Ahead of the EU-AU Summit, the Africa Europe Foundation will be sharing the key outcomes of the three ‘Talking-Africa Europe’ Specials – Energy/Climate; Migrations/mobility; Vaccines which fill feed into the dialogue among Heads of State from both continents.
To facilitate an open and frank dialogue on key, often contentious, issues between our two continents, AEF is organising three high-level “Talking Africa-Europe” specials focusing on the priority issues of Climate and Energy (January 20), Migration and Mobility (January 27) and Addressing the vaccine challenge for a renewed Africa-Europe partnership (February 3).
This debate on Addressing the vaccine challenge for a renewed Africa-Europe partnership will touch upon not only the need for effective vaccine equity, only way to ensure a fully efficient fight against the current pandemic, but also the development of local vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa, in order to ensure long-term security against further pandemics.
Past Event Recordings:
- Talking Africa-Europe: Climate and energy in the Africa-Europe partnership. Leading the way to the AU-EU Summit
- Talking Africa-Europe: Migration and Mobility in Africa-Europe Partnership. Leading the Way to the AU-EU summit
- AEF Charter: Launch of the Africa-Europe Foundation Charter
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One year after the launch of the global vaccination campaign, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on health systems, economies and the day to day lives of citizens in both Africa and Europe as borders are once again shutting in an attempt to block the spread of new variants.
The debate will touch upon not only the need for effective vaccine equity, only way to ensure a fully efficient fight against the current pandemic, but also the development of local vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa, in order to ensure long-term security against further pandemics.
Director of Health Programmes, UNICEF
Chair Medicines Patent Pool Foundation, Chair of the French Scientific Committee on COVID-19 vaccine
Associate Research Professor and Co-director of the Viral and Bacterial Infections Programme, Barcelona Institute for Global Health
Chief Executive Officer, The Biovac Institute
WHO Regional Director for Africa
Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)
Chief Operating Officer BioNTech
Abebe Aemro Selassie
Director of the IMF’s African Department
Deputy Director-General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission
Special Envoy Global Health, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, Netherlands
European Commissioner for International Partnerships
Member of the European Parliament, Co-Chair of the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF) Strategy Groups and co-Chair of the COVAX Council
Deputy director in the Africa office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Abebe Aemro Selassie is the Director of the IMF’s African Department. Previously, he was deputy director of this department. At the IMF he has led the teams working on Portugal and South Africa, as well as the Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa. He has also worked on Thailand, Turkey and Poland, as well as a range of policy issues. From 2006-2009 he was the IMF’s resident representative in Uganda. Before joining the IMF, Mr. Selassie worked for the Government of Ethiopia.
Solomon Zewdu is the deputy director in the Africa office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where he shapes continental health, nutrition, disease eradication and development investments. Prior to moving to the continental platform, he served as the deputy director in Ethiopia and before joining the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Zewdu worked both in the private sector and US Department of Defense up to a rank of Lieutenant Colonel – USAF.
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