Africa has been shortchanged on Covid vaccines, African Development Bank says

A health worker vaccinates a man in Abidjan on August 17, 2021 during a roll-out of vaccinations against Ebola on August 17, 2021, after the country recorded its first known case of the disease since 1994. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP) (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)
ISSOUF SANOGO | AFP | Getty Images

African countries have been “shortchanged” with regard to its access to Covid-19 vaccines, the president of African Development Bank said.

“Africa [has] for sure been shortchanged, if I can use that term, regarding access to vaccines globally,” Akinwumi Adesina told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

“The vaccines are not getting here in time, in the right quantity and the right price,” he said, adding that saving lives is “all about timing.”

Only 2.48% of the continent has been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 23, according to Our World in Data, far behind other continents.

In comparison, vaccination rates stand at 25.31% in Asia and 27.1% in South America, while Europe and North America’s inoculation rates are both above 40%, statistics in Our World in Data showed.

“If there’s any lesson … that we have learned from this, it is that Africa should not depend on the rest of the world for supplying it with critical vaccines, and also therapeutics,” he said.

I expect Africa will rebound after this particular pandemic. The fundamentals remain very strong.
Akinwumi Adesina
president, African Development Bank

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said countries in the continent have received 123.4 million vaccines as of Aug. 18. The shots have been secured through bilateral agreements, the global Covax alliance that seeks to provide vaccines to poorer countries and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) — a 10-member group that sources for vaccines for Africa.

Through AVATT, the African Union has procured 400 million vaccines for delivery over the next year or so, enough to inoculate a third of the population, said Adesina.

But that still falls far short of Africa’s population of more than 1.2 billion people.

Africa “should not be dependent on others, it should be self-sufficient,” he said.

To that end, the African Development Bank wants to invest in primary, secondary and tertiary health-care infrastructure, Adesina said. It also hopes to put $3 billion toward the pharmaceutical sector so that Africa can have vaccines and medicine for itself.

Economic effect

The pandemic has had a “very dramatic impact” on Africa, Adesina said, adding that GDP growth fell, fiscal deficits doubled and debt-to-GDP ratios increased in 2020.

But he said he expects growth to hit 3.4% this year, after contracting 2.1% in 2020.

“Africa still has fantastic fundamentals,” he said, pointing to rapid urbanization, good potential for consumer spending, and a large, young population.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is also “too big to ignore,” the bank president said.

According to the World Bank, the AFCFTA as it’s called, is the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. It seeks to connect over a billion people in 55 countries that have a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

“I expect Africa will rebound after this particular pandemic,” he said. “The fundamentals remain very strong.”

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