The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the Managing Director of International Finance Corporation, Makhtar Diop, have called on the private sector to support the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
These leaders made the disclosure at the UBA Africa Day 2021. According to them, waiting for the vaccines to be imported would neither help the continent nor curb the effects of the pandemic.
Diop explained that the IFC was pushing for more intra-African trade and trade financing (including for pharmaceutical and local vaccines manufacturing in Africa) and agreed that such would not be possible without the support of the private sector.
He said, “IFC has been pushing for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines in Africa and definitely can’t do that without the support of the private sector. I know when we call on entrepreneurs like Tony Elumelu, I am sure he will support us because he has proven himself over time.”
In his response, the Chairman of UBA Plc and moderator of the event, Tony Elumelu, disclosed that he and his wife, who is a Medical Doctor, met with the Ambassador of Czech to Nigeria recently, and similar issues were discussed. “We are addressing the issue shortly,” he said.
In his presentation, Dr Tedros Adhanom also emphasised the need for African countries to build capacity for vaccine production as a way of addressing the challenge of inequitable vaccine distribution, as experienced with the COVID-19 vaccines.
He said, “Africa cannot rely solely on the import of vaccines from the rest of the world. We must build that capacity, not only for covid 19 vaccines but for other vaccines and medical products. The cooperation of the private and public sector will be essential in this effort.
I think the major thing for us in this pandemic is to agree on the importance of cooperation. But as we know, countries can engage each other in confrontation and competition; for this pandemic, you cannot choose competition and confrontation, the only option is cooperation because the pandemic is a common enemy. The cooperation starts from sharing what’s available to fight the common enemy everywhere.
Then we have the immediate and long term. That is, we have to increase the volume of vaccines we have, and for that, manufacturing will be key. So, we should use all the options we have to increase vaccine coverage in all countries.”
Fast-tracking Africa’s economic growth
Speaking on measures to fast-track recovery and economic growth on the continent, the DG of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, called for additional fiscal stimulus, including the provision of liquidity and credit to the private sector, economic diversification, and successful implementation of the AfCFTA. The WTO DG said:
”In the short term, on the economic side is to see how we can get more fiscal stimulus into our economy.
That is why it is important, the whole discussion we are having on restructuring debt and giving African economy space, fiscal space to breathe so that they can invest, not only on the health side but also on the economy side. This is how we are going to recover.
Now, the good news is that all our Presidents, like President Kagame, have been pushing for the issuance of SDR, the Special Drawing Right at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and 650 billion has now been agreed, Africa will get 34 billion but more may be allocated. We can use this to help implement more fiscal stimulus so that our economies can have the ability to recover.
In the longer term or in the medium term, of course, we know that we have to diversify our economy. We are too vulnerable to movement in commodity prices. And of course, take advantage of the AfCFTA to specialise some countries in production, trade more with each other and also trade more with the outside.”
She added that for AfCFTA to work, there must be free movement of goods, people and services.