On a visit to South Africa, French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to invest in the production of more vaccines in Africa, a continent where less than two percent of people have been immunised against Covid-19.
“It is a matter of duty,” to support the poorest countries to access vaccines, the French leader said after talks with his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, in Pretoria on Friday afternoon.
“We will put in place an investment strategy for the industry to produce more,” particularly in Africa, he said.
The two leaders discussed a temporary waiver of World Trade Organisation property rights over coronavirus vaccines.
The idea is being pushed by South Africa and India, which say the waiver will spur vaccine production in developing countries.
There should be “no barrier to access to vaccines. Let’s lift all these barriers and deliver concrete and efficient tech transfer,” Macron said.
“Covid vaccines must be global public goods,” he said.
‘A race to save lives’
At the University of Pretoria, Macron and the German health minister Jens Spahn announced investment deals to produce more vaccines in Africa, a project backed by the European Union, the United States and the World Bank.
HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE: President @CyrilRamaphosa and President @EmmanuelMacron are at the @FutureAfricaUP Auditorium in Tshwane to lead a discussion on their efforts to fight #COVID19 and share their visions for development of long-term capabilities. https://t.co/SrIkvcJJWy pic.twitter.com/6Dn1WUmF2W – Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) May 28, 2021
Ramaphosa said access to treatment was the “biggest and most dangerous challenge” for the continent, with vaccines flooding into the developed world yet “trickling” into Africa.
“We are in a race to save lives,” said Ramaphosa.
“We cannot continue to wait in the queue for life-saving vaccines. The longer we wait the more lives we put at risk,” said Ramaphosa.
Sub-Saharan Africa has lagged behind the rest of the world with vaccination — less than two percent of its population has been immunised six months after the campaign started.
Ramaphosa has sounded the alarm about what he called “vaccine apartheid” between rich countries and poor ones.
Pharmaceutical companies have opposed the intellectual rights waiver, saying it could sap incentives for future research and development.
They also point out that manufacturing a vaccine requires know-how and technical resources — something that cannot be acquired at the flip of a switch.
Macron’s approach is to push for a transfer of technology to enable the creation of production sites in poorer countries.
He pointed out that France already had a partnership with South Africa’s Biovac Institute and would soon launch a project with South African pharmaceutical company Aspen.
While Africa has about 20 percent of vaccine needs, it produced only one percent.
Very low vaccination rate
The country has recorded more than 1.6 million cases of Africa’s 4.7 million infections and accounts for more than 40 percent of its nearly 130,000 fatalities.
Only one percent of its population of 59 million have been vaccinated — most of them health workers and people aged 60 or more.
The immunisation effort got off to a stuttering start when South Africa purchased AstraZeneca vaccines earlier this year and then sold them to other African countries following fears that they would be less effective against a local variant.
Disclaimer: The Post Africa: Macron Promises to Boost Efforts to Produce Covid Vaccines on the Continent was first Published by RFI on allafrica.com.