End vaccine apartheid, urges President Ramaphosa

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed grave disappointment at rich countries who have hoarded the much-needed COVID-19 vaccines.

“The greed that they demonstrated is something that is quite disappointing indeed, particularly when they say they are our partners. The lives of people in Africa are just as important as the lives in Europe, in North America, and all over the world,” he said.

The President was speaking during the seventh session of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in the Senegalese capital on Monday.

He said the most critical aspect at this time, is the ongoing negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a temporary waiver of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Whilst this is being negotiated, this is where you really see the interests of the more developed economies, the rich countries, through their refusal to accede to this proposal to waive the TRIPS requirement. This is the type of vaccine apartheid we say must come to an end, because the health of people around the world is at stake,” he said.

The President emphasised that for Africa to meet the challenge presented by new variants, “we cannot wait around for vaccines to be allocated to us as we were forced to in the past.”

He has called on sister African countries to support the proposal.

 This as African nations are faced with the task to drive a recovery that is sustainable, inclusive and that leaves no one and no country behind.

“Manufacturing our own vaccines isn’t just a safe and fast way to get access to the lifesaving medication to protect our people. It is also a critical component of economic recovery.”

The manufacturing of vaccines on the continent will further support the growth of African pharmaceutical manufacturing, create jobs, result in critical skills and knowledge transfer, and develop new African industries and businesses.

However, the President said that they are optimistic that the partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing launched earlier this year, will help in achieving the goal of increasing vaccine manufacturing to more than 60% by 2040.

“It is in this regard that we have already identified a number of countries that have the capability and all it takes from a manufacturing point of view to be able to be manufacturers of vaccines, and South Africa and Senegal are among the countries with that capability and must be allowed to do so,” he said.

Travel bans

Addressing travel bans imposed on South Africa has been the President’s priority during his four-nation visit to West Africa. He has spoken out against Western countries that have imposed travel bans on South Africa.

He said that when South African scientists discovered Omicron, they immediately took on the responsibility of informing the entire world. However Western countries responded by imposing the ban.

 “They basically say we will not allow you to travel. However, this new variant continues to spread across the globe, beyond Southern Africa, including in their own countries,” he said.

The President questioned the science behind the bans against South Africa and other southern African countries.

 “We say those bans must be removed with immediate effect, so that our people can travel all around the world,” he said.

The President’s Senegalese counterpart, President Macky Sall, echoed the same sentiment saying that the Omicron variant is all over the world.

“Isolating a country which has isolated the virus is counter-productive because it is a way to call others not to publish, so we need to work in solidarity with responding,” said President Sall. –SAnews.gov.za