Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
The batch of 600,000 vaccine doses landing in Ghana on February 24, 2021, was the first shipment to sub-Saharan Africa under the multilateral COVAX facility led by the United States and the European Unions. By then, tens of millions had already been vaccinated in the US and the UK, writes Howard Stein, a professor of Afroamerican and African studies at the UniversIty of Michigan, in Africa is a Country
Since then, "Africa accounts for the lowest number of doses that has been administered per 100 people (only 0.7 doses), compared to 5.0 doses for Asia, 8.0 doses for South America, 16 doses for Europe, and 27 for North America. At the current rate, the continent is expected to only reach herd immunity in 2023 at the earliest", according to Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu, a Nigerian journalist specialized in Science and Technology.
At least five African countries could be able to develop and produce their own vaccines in order to avoid this "Vaccine Apartheid," but they have chosen no to do so, reports Edward-Ekpu in Quartz, relying instead on imported technology.
The fundamental reason for all this, says Stern, lies on IMF and World Bank-promoted structural adjustment programs implemented in Africa in the 1980's, which forced governments to adopt neoliberal economic policies, that in turn focused not only on restructuring services, finance and industry, but also on a cultural revolution of sorts.
Regarding Covid19, "the optimism that Africa would be spared by "early lockdown", "less dense population, "the effect of ultraviolet", "a climate that meant people spent more time outside" and "Africa's youthful population" has rapidly faded. Officially there are now more than 100,000 deaths on the continent, but the real numbers are much higher due to the paucity of testing and the lack of capacity to accurately track and evaluate causes of mortality".
"Following independence, higher education was a key part of the national development project and was aimed at training Africans to take on vital new roles as doctors, teachers, lawyers, civil servants, and economists", Stern says.
V for vaccinated!#Benin���� began #COVID19 vaccine rollout this week with vaccines from #COVAX. A total of 39 countries in Africa have begun COVID-19 vaccination, with 11.2 million doses administered so far. pic.twitter.com/zwXfVc8DZV
"Economic curriculum in universities theorized about the nature of Africa's integration into the global economy and the domestic policies needed to enhance development. Debates on the government strategies drew on diverse theoretical traditions such as institutional and structural economics. There was a general consensus on the need for African countries to use government tools to build an industrial base."
Shocking neoliberal policies triggered resistance from African academic quarters, but the very same policies meant that African universities and institutes began to be grossly underfunded. "The World Bank and other donors realized that opposition could be demobilized, and "ownership" generated by incorporating the economics profession into the Western economic model", Stern says.
"Neoliberalism loosened restrictions on capital flows, privatized state enterprises, and liberalized trade undermining local manufacturing capacity leading to more reliance on imports of manufacturing goods including pharmaceuticals and other health commodities. Increasingly African countries became more dependent on exporting unprocessed raw materials for foreign exchange. Hence, adjustment led to the deindustrialization of the continent and returned Africa to its colonial style extraction economy with its problematic boom and bust commodity cycles. Manufacturing fell from 18% of GDP in 1980 to only 7%-9% after 2000".
Following this path, Nigeria's Edward-Ekpu points out, the Afrieximbanks is ready to lend African countries up to 2 billion dollars to purchase US and European-manufactured vaccines, while the cost of developing an independent jab would cost a fraction of that: between $8 million to $350 million, which nobody seems willing to fund.
Edward-Ekpu underlines the sharp contrast between middle-income African countries policies such as Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, with counterparts like India, Cuba, India, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Thailand, and Iran, all of which are developing vaccines and conducting clinical tests.
Not by accident, at the very outset of the Covid19 pandemic, Cuba launched a national crusade involving dozens of state pharma and biotech enterprises as well as research institutes, universities and hospitals, to develop its own vaccine, which was -also not by chance- named Soberana (Sovereign).
Five different vaccines are under development in the blockaded socialist island, two of them in the final stages of phase-three clinical trials. Cuba aims at producing 100 million doses, inoculate 100 percent of its population by midyear.