By Phyllis Mbanje | NewsDay |
Philanthropist and telecommunications giant Strive Masiyiwa has criticised the world’s richest nations for deliberately causing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
A livid Masiyiwa, who is currently based in London, laid into the Western powers during a virtual summit on vaccine distribution, saying glaring evidence has shown that while slightly over 1% had been vaccinated in Africa, which is home to over a billion people, countries like the United States had made great strides and vaccinated over 40% of their populations.
Masiyiwa, who is a special envoy for the African Union (AU) to secure COVID-19 vaccines, candidly said in terms of fair access to vaccines Africa had been short-changed.
“It was a deliberate global architect of unfairness,” Masiyiwa said.
“It was just unfair and so let us call it what it is. It is just not fair.”
Masiyiwa said he had been called by African leaders to try and help with access to vaccines.
“I met all the manufacturers in December and said we would like to buy some vaccines. We had money and were willing to pay cash upfront. We were not asking for donations. But they said all capacities for 2021 had been sold.
“So the people, who bought the vaccines and those who sold to them, knew there would be nothing for us.”
A few days ago, African Finance ministers and the World Bank Group met to fast-track vaccine acquisition on the continent and avoid a third wave.
In a boost to the AU’s target to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and the AU announced that they were partnering to support the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative with resources to allow countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million people across Africa.
This extraordinary regional effort complements Covax and comes at a time when COVID-19 cases in the region are rising. World Bank financing is available to support the purchase and deployment of doses secured by AVATT.
“We really appreciate the extraordinary partnership on this initiative between the AU vaccine champion, President Cyril Ramaphosa and David Malpass, the President of the World Bank,” said Masiyiwa who is also the coordinator for AVATT.
The World Bank has $12 billion in vaccine financing available to help countries purchase and distribute vaccines and address readiness issues.
The World Bank has already approved operations to support vaccine roll out in 36 countries. By end of June, the World Bank expects to be supporting vaccination efforts in 50 countries, two-thirds of which are in Africa.
The World Bank also has strong partnerships with regional institutions such as the Africa Centre for Disease Control, West African Health Organisation and the AU Commission to enhance cross-border collaboration on disease surveillance, preparedness and response.
The World Bank-financed COVID-19 vaccine operations allow countries to purchase vaccines through Covax, through regional initiatives, and through bilateral procurement from manufacturers.