In an important interview, At Least 9 African Countries to Produce Covid Vaccines, Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported on the progress Africa is making in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.It was published by The World on January 5, 2022
For Africa to vaccinate its entire population of 1.5 billion people, the continent must shift from total dependence on vaccine supplies from other nations. I have written on the necessity of African nations to have their own manufacturing and distribution capability to vaccinate their entire populations. This would require massive investments in all categories of hard and soft infrastructure, which African nations already desperately need. All epidemiologists know that as long as hundreds of millions of Africans remain unvaccinated, the virus will spread and mutate, endangering the entire planet. It is in the self-interest of the developing sector to help African nations develop their own indigenous capability to manufacture and distribute vaccines to defeat covid-19. Our goal for African nations should be nothing less than 100% vaccination before the end of this year.
The exciting news from Dr. John Nkengasong is that several African nations are in the process of preparing to produce their own vaccines.
“A lot has happened and continues to happen in the course of this pandemic. The heads of states came together and launched a program called Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing. And through that partnership, at least nine countries on the continent have engaged in the pathway for producing vaccines, including South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt. Egypt, for example, is already producing about 3.5 million doses of vaccines. We know that South Africa is now producing vaccines. So I think you’ll continue to see that the landscape will change significantly in 2022.” (emphasis added
Speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on the existing AIDS pandemic in Africa, the Director the Africa CDC said:
“I think it is important to know that we are dealing with two pandemics across the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic and COVID[-19] is a pandemic that has just emerged over the last two years. And very unfortunately, and very concerning, is the interaction of the two pandemics. We now know that people infected with HIV tend to not clear the virus, that is, the COVID-19 virus, appropriately, especially if they have not been fully treated — and that has the risk of creating variants. We don’t know what the trajectory for COVID[-19] will look like in the coming years, but we know that HIV has been with us for 40 years [and] has killed almost 37 million people. Tremendous gains have been made in the fight against HIV, especially in Africa. But we should be mindful of what COVID[-19] can do to erode the significant progress that we have made in achieving remarkable progress in controlling HIV/AIDS over the years.” (emphasis added)
Rwanda Provides Vaccination Leadership
According to Dr. Nkengasong:
“Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated continent against COVID-19, with about 10% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated. Only seven African countries have met the global target of vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.”
Rwanda is only one of seven African nations to reach the goal set by the World Health Organization, of vaccinating over 40% of its population of 13.5 million in 2021.
Rwanda has delivered 13.9 million doses of the vaccine and has vaccinated 43.9% of its population, according to ourworldindata.org. The U.S. with access to the vaccine for over one year, has only vaccinated 62% of the American population.
According to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, “the nation’s central health implementation agency,” as of January 13th: 7,851,445 Rwandans have received one dose; 6,030,321 have received both doses; and 516,062 have been given their booster shots. Rwanda is also one of the nine African nations working to manufacture the covid-19 vaccine itself.
Byishimo reports that a mere 102 million Africans “equivalent to 8% of the African population” have been vaccinated. He writes:
“Considering the hoarding and protectionism of the vaccine, it is of interest to find out how Rwanda managed to achieve these global milestones amidst the suffering continent of Africa.”
Civilization will not survive the stark reality that the fastest growing population in the world is the least vaccinated.
Rwanda is clearly doing something right that should be emulated across the continent and supported by the developed nations.
A Rwanda government official succinctly summarizes the reasons for his nation’s accomplishment.
A resident receives the covid19 jab at Nyabugogo Taxis Park on December 13, 2021.Early January 2022, over 5.5 million Rwandans had been fully vaccinated while above 7.7 M people had obtained their first dose . / Dan Nsengiyumva
“Effective leadership, institutional readiness, long term health sector infrastructure investments and partnership.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.
The Guardian on February 7, published an insightful statement from Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, on the importance of vaccinating Africans, entitled: Until Africans get the Covid vaccinations they need, the whole world will suffer.
President Kagame correctly concludes: Ensuring equitable access to vaccines globally during a pandemic is not only a moral issue, but an economic imperative to protect the wellbeing of people everywhere. But when will Africa get the protection it needs? If all lives are equal, why isn’t access to vaccines?
I completely agree with President Kagame. It is both immoral and economically stupid not to vaccinate every human being as quickly as possible, and without cost. Let me briefly summarize.
1) Every human being is bestowed by the Creator with the power of creative reason. Thus, every human being is sacred. Society should spare no effort to preserve human life. This is a requirement of civilization. After all, we are not Malthusians, who believe the world is over populated.
2) Until the Covid19 virus is eliminated across the world, no nations or peoples are safe from the virus and its mutations. Therefore, it is criminally stupid not to vaccinate every single person on the planet as quickly as possible.
3) The global economy will also suffer, if more human beings are unable to work or die due to sickness from Covid19. Economic production and trade will shrink, lowering the physical standard of living throughout the world.
4) It is cheaper to vaccinate everyone for free than pay for exorbitant medical costs to treat patients with Covid19.
5) Let us use this horrible crisis to unite all nations in a global effort to not only eradicate this deadly virus, but upgrade the healthcare system of African nations, enabling them to properly respond to the needs of their people
Below is the full text of President Kagame’s column.
The current situation with regard to the access and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines vividly illustrates the decades-old contradictions of the world order.
Rich and powerful nations have rushed to lock up supply of multiple vaccine candidates. Worse, some are hoarding vaccines – purchasing many times more doses than they need. This leaves African and other developing countries either far behind in the vaccine queue, or not in it at all.
There are worrying signs of vaccine nationalism in Europe and North America. The pressures on political leaders to vaccinate all their citizens before sharing supplies with others is understandable. But forcing smaller or poorer countries to wait until everyone in the north has been catered for is shortsighted.
Delaying access to vaccines for citizens of developing countries is ultimately many times more costly. The pandemic will rage on, crippling the global economy. New mutations may continue to emerge at a more rapid pace. The world risks reversing decades of human development gains and eclipsing the 2030 sustainable development goals.
In this context, the billions of dollars it would cost to distribute vaccines across the developing world is not particularly high, given the return on the investment. Doing so would unlock global commerce, which would benefit all trading nations during the long road to economic recovery that lies ahead of us. We need global value chains to be fully operational again and to include everyone.
Last year, the world came together to provide additional fiscal space for developing countries through the debt service suspension initiative at the G20. This helped governments in Africa pay for their Covid responses and provide additional social protection, thereby preventing the worst outcomes. We shouldn’t lose that spirit now and give in to an unfortunate erosion of global solidarity.
The Covax facility, led by the World Health Organization, was supposed to ensure doses for 20% of Africa’s people – right from the start and at the same time as richer countries. However, nearly two months after the first vaccines have been administered, it is still not clear when African nations will be able to start immunising people, though the first doses may begin reaching the continent later this month.
What can be done in practical terms? The rich world can help developing countries get the same fair prices that they have already negotiated for themselves. One pharmaceutical firm is reportedly planning to charge $37 per dose for “small orders”. Recently, one African country reported being asked to pay more than double the price that the European Union had negotiated for the same product.
During natural disasters, price gouging for essential supplies is illegal. It should not be tolerated for vaccines during a pandemic either. If prices are fair, and Africa is allowed to place orders, many countries on the continent would be willing and able to pay for themselves. But, given the current market structure, they will need active support from more powerful countries to do so.
The African Union and Afreximbank have set up the Africa Medical Supplies Platform to help countries secure financing by providing advance commitment guarantees of up to $2bn to manufacturers. The platform has negotiated an initial order of 270m doses, but this is still very far from the 60% coverage Africa needs to achieve some measure of herd immunity, and there is no telling when those supplies will be available.
Vaccine candidates from China and Russia are also coming online and may provide an alternative for some developing countries. However, the reality is that most countries will only be able to procure vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organization. The WHO should speed up emergency use approvals for Covid-19 vaccines in line with action taken by major national regulators in Europe and North America.
Africa is not sitting back and waiting for charity. We have learned our lessons from the past. All we ask for is transparency and fairness in vaccine access, not the protectionism currently in play.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
In this interview with PressTV, Mr Freeman discusses the implications of the food shortages in Africa as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. He said: “The morality of world is on trial. Life has to be put above everything else.”
According to The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the coronavirus pandemic could cause food shortages for hundreds of millions of people across the globe. The WFP said “Africa is the most vulnerable continent. It added that for many poor countries, the economic consequences of COVID-19 outbreak will be more devastating than the disease itself.”
COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa
In the first 15 minutes of this programs, Mr. Freeman discuses the implications of the coronavirus in Africa. Watch: COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa
Africa Union Needs to Demand More
The communique released by the African Union on April 3, does not go far enough. The AU should be leading an all out effort to save lives in Africa and a full mobilization to build-up Africa’s weak healthcare infrastructure. Read:African Union: COVID-19
For more on COVID-19 read my two recent articles below.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa
March 30, 2020
As of March 30, 2020, the Africa CDC reports the total number of COVID-19 cases-4,760, deaths-146, and recoveries-355. The totals for individual nations vary from higher levels: Algeria 511 cases and 31 deaths; Egypt 609 and 40; Morocco 479 and 26, South Africa 1280 and 1; Nigeria 111 and 1 (cases and deaths respectively); to dozens of nations reporting 10 or less cases and 0 deaths. Africa CDC COVID-19
While these figures for Africa are significantly lower than nations in Europe, Asia, and North America, in some cases orders of magnitude lower, there is reason for great concern for the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the African continent. Many African nations are unable to adequately test their citizens, and one should assume the number of cases is vastly unreported. Also, there unique features of African society that present an impediment to isolation of those infected with COVID-19, and social distancing. African society are centered around crowded mass markets, and culturally Africans are prone to show their friendliness towards others by holding hands.
Factoring in a weak healthcare system, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, lack of electricity and clean water, and already prevalent existing diseases (HIV AIDS, Malaria, TB) in the population, COVID-19 could propagate very rapidly, overwhelming an insufficient number of beds, hospitals and doctors. For Africans, the consequences of the proliferation of COVID-19 could be catastrophic, resulting in higher levels of mortality and morbidity than we have presently experienced.
Debt Restructuring Necessary for Africa’s Health
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, African leaders are demanding a restructuring of the onerous debt, whose payment has diverted nations’ revenues away from investing in vital categories of infrastructure, including healthcare. Payment of debt, mere loans, cannot be, to quote from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “the pound of flesh” used to kill people. Tragically, since African nations liberated themselves from European colonialism, debt has been used as a weapon to repress the development of emerging nations.
On March 24, the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, released an incisive three point proposal to the G20 nations outlining necessary actions to be taken to safeguard African nations during this pandemic. He began by dramatically stating the truth, “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries. Our economies, fragile and vulnerable even in the best of times will face serious shocks.” He than discussed a crucial underlying constraint imposed on African nations, “the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them [nations] significantly more than their annual health budgets.”
Prime Minister Abiy requested from the G20:
$150 billion “Africa Global COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package”
“Global Africa Health Emergency Package”
“Debt resolution and Restructuring Package.”
Elaborating on debt restructuring, Prime Minister Abiy wrote, “Ethiopia proposes all interest payments to government loans should be written off. We suggest the remaining debt be converted into long term low interest loans with 10 years grace period before payments. All debt payments will be limited to 10% of the value of exports.”
The theme of restructuring Africa’s debt to deal with the present crisis, was also discussed in a virtual conference of African finance ministers on March 19, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). To battle COVID-19, the ministers said, “Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100 billion” The UNCEA reports that they are asking that $44 billion, almost fifty percent of the funds requested, would come from halting payments of debt service, and in the most fragile nations to the loan principal as well. African Finance Ministers Discuss Debt
In an insightful column, published in the March 25th edition of the Financial Times, Prime Minister Abiy again raises the necessity of debt alleviation: “Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.” (emphasis added) PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all”
Emergency Actions Taken
Nigeria—March 18, with 8 confirmed cases, imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk COVID-19 infested countries; mandated a ban open worship and other public gatherings; mandated compulsory laboratory tests on all staff and members of the national assembly; mandated that public institutions should be equipped with temperature gauge. All airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until 23 April.
Rwanda—March 21, with 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspended all arriving and departing commercial flights for 30 days; shutdown of schools, universities, and places of worship for two weeks; the office of the Prime Minister released a list of nine preventive measures.
Ethiopia—March 23, with 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, enforced a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the country; closed all schools, and banned all gatherings and sports events for 15 days. March 25, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde ordered that more than 4,000 prisoners be pardoned.
Senegal–March 23, declared a state of emergency.
Ivory Coast–March 23, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, and shut the country’s borders
South Africa—March 26, with over 900 confirmed cases, began a three-week nationwide lockdown; the lockdown is considered one of the strictest, banning alcohol sales, dog-walking, and jogging in public.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, China has sent to the African Union, 2,000 test kits to be dispersed across the continent, and is expected to send another 10,000, along with medical supplies. China has also launched a new Health Silk Road. On Sunday, March 22, African Union received 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields, donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.
Lessons We Must Learn
We can and should learn the following lessons from this contagious and lethal virus. Decisions made by nations for securing their future can now be informed from the very painful consequences of the global spread of COVID-19. If society, had learned the principles of the science of physical economy, instead of being seduced by the “smell of money,” we might very well have been able to avoid the worst of the tragic effects of COVID-19, which continue to plague our planet. An unprepared and underfunded national economy gives society little chance to deal with any serious crisis, much less a pandemic.
*Globalization has always been a trojan horse, an Achilles heel for the security of any nation. The idea that a nation should gamble its security on the premise of buying necessary commodities from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price was always insane. Witness today’s disruption of multi-thousand mile long supply chains as proof.
For example, properly understood, feeding one’s population is a matter of national security. African nations have undermined their security and sovereignty by failing to be food self-sufficient. Procuring food from other continents or at great distances across Africa is not only foolish, but totally unnecessary given the fecundity of African soil. By conservative estimates, African nations spend $35 billion on imported food. A colossal and senseless waste of foreign exchange, which contributes to a nation’s poverty. And a poor-hungry population is fertile ground for orchestrated destabilizations. Nations are ordered by institutions like the World Trade Organization to buy their food at the cheapest price regardless of domestic consequences.
The alternative to globalization is obvious; each nation has the sovereign obligation to foster productive agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The current pandemic of the coronavirus has brought to the fore the perilous effects of nations dependent upon importing lifesaving products from other nations.
Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit has always been a killer for Africa; literally! Many of my friends and critics alike have objected to my insistence that the most critical prerequisite for Africa’s development is infrastructure. The most essential human right, is the right to live, and to live as a dignified human being. That is impossible with pathetically low, in some cases, non-existent levels of infrastructure.
*Healthcare infrastructure is a necessity to sustain longevity of life—the essence of a human right. It embodies all components of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.
Examine what is necessary to maintain a hospital. Abundant electricity for lights and machines, access to clean water, roads and rail lines to transport patients, advanced medical equipment, a manufacturing sector to produce all the products consumed by hospital staff, food production to feed patients and staff, colleges, medical schools to train nurses and physicians, clothing for patients and staff, protective gear, and the list goes on. Now ask oneself, how many hospitals are there per 100,000 population in Africa? How many basic hospital beds exist? How advanced intensive care units? If you look at the chart in the link below, which admittedly is several years old, you can see the huge discrepancy in hospital beds per 1,000 people in Africa compared other parts of the world. Hospital Bed per 1,000 in Africa
In the years 2012-2013, the US had 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, Italy 3.9 and Spain 3. All these nations are now experiencing a shortage of beds and all are considered hot spots in this COVID-19 pandemic. Shockingly, in that same time frame, over 25 African nations were recorded to have 1 bed or less per 1,000.
In 1975 the U.S. had 1.5 million hospital beds, and today has 925,000-over half a million fewer. Today the US has an average of 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, and California, Oregon, and Washington have 2 beds or less per 1,000. By contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan, China had 4.3 beds per 1000, and they have added 10,000 hospital beds since the outbreak began by building several new hospitals.
Think for a moment would kind of investment in infrastructure, production, and labor that would be required for African nations to even reach the insufficient US level of hospitals and beds. How many hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity would have to be generated to supply these new hospitals? How many million gallons of water would be required? Africa has never built up a minimum healthcare infrastructure and is woefully unprepared should the pandemic surge on the continent in the weeks and months ahead.
As we are witnessing today, the West is suffering greatly from the deliberate slashing its own healthcare infrastructure over recent decades. This has been accomplished through austerity, shortsightedness, and an indecent obeisance to a desire to make fast-money by gambling on Wall Street.
*State government intervention has risen to the fore during this scourge of COVID-19, despite decades maligning the role of the state. It is now clear that contrary to the false claims that the state has no role in the world of neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, and unregulated free-trade, government supervision and government credit-debt to sustain people and the economy have proofed invaluable and lifesaving. Putting aside the multi-trillion dollar bailout to the global gambling casino known as the financial system, governments have issued emergency funds necessary to maintain society. Much more government intervention will be required to save lives in the weeks and months ahead.
A New Just Economic Order
Prime Minister Abiy’s column in the Financial Times beseeches the need for a coordinated global response to COVID-19:
“There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world.
That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this.
We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.”
His comments implore the urgent necessity for an entirely different global approach to be taken by nations. We must absorb the horrible reality of today’s deadly crisis to motivate our passions to create a better future for civilization.
For humanity to survive, we can no longer tolerate living in a world governed a geo-political doctrine that views other countries crudely as either friend or foe, with winners on top and losers underneath. We can no longer live in a system that values mere money above human life. Look at Sudan, whose people are suffering, while Western institutions led by the International Monetary Fund use Sudan’s $53 billion in (unpayable) debt as weapon to dictate their “reforms.”
Months before COVID-19, the United Nations asked for $135 million to fight the unprecedented Desert Locust threatening the food supply in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The fund is still $100 million short of that goal. The UN has called the locust swarm in East Africa “extremely alarming.” Tthe current pandemic is affecting the ability for African nations to obtain the minimal equipment and pesticides required.
We must bring into creation a new model for governing. A new paradigm that values human life above all else. One that acknowledges the universal moral resemblance of all human beings.
The call for a New Just World Economic Order was first articulated in the 1970s and has been echoed for decades by world leaders. All foreign, domestic, economic policy should be formulated upon the recognizable principle that all people share a common aim and destiny. We, the human race, are unified by our endowed unique quality; the power ofreason-creative imagination. To resolve the multiple crises facing humanity, including a meltdown of the global financial system, it is urgent that an international conference be convened to establish a new template for economic and political relations among sovereign nations. The foremost underlying principle for such deliberations is acknowledging that the aspiration of all nations should be the elevation of human creative life. For all peoples.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com