According to the Economic Intelligent Unit, vaccines will not be available in most African countries until April 2022 at the earliest. It looks like Africa is at the end of the queue. The essence and importance of this vaccine cannot be overemphasized. Its effects are quite evident around the world.
China’s soft-power push is having global influence, with its established relationship in Africa having a pitfall among colonialism matters. Assisting Africa to acquire this vaccine earlier than proposed is seen as an opportunity in time to correct the assertion on the mind of Africans.
COVID-19 situation in Africa
Nothing is as crucial in the world now as much as the coronavirus vaccine. The available BioNtech-Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines come in short supply and have been purchased by top-tier countries. While Europeans in the EU complain about the slow rollout of the vaccines, many Africans do not even see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Kenya’s Minister of Health, Mutahi Kagwe, mentioned that Africa has to be independent as a continent and country when it comes to vaccines and pharmaceutical products. Also, that Africa should step up on drug and vaccine supply.
South Africa has received a million doses from AstraZeneca, Rwanda has ordered a million doses from US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, and Uganda expects its first doses of Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca in April. The issue arising about these vaccines is their structure against our infrastructure. There is no provision available to store these vaccines, thus in no time, it will be proven useless. Developing countries, especially those in Africa, need a vaccine that is feasible for usage considering the structure in place.
Resistance from the West
Africa has pre-ordered about 900 million doses so far. The African Center for Disease Control predicts the continent will need at least 1.5 billion doses to vaccinate 60% of the population. Distribution systems could cost up to $10 billion (€8.3 billion) to purchase and set up.
China was the first country to send aid packages including PPEs to African countries at the beginning of the pandemic. Europe and the United States are not concerned about Africa right now with the vaccine. They are only burdened with getting it across to their people and blocking others off.
The Asian Giant is not donating its vaccines to African countries only. It is also giving them to countries in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, as most Western countries focus on securing vaccines for their own populations.
This will definitely put a strain on certain relationships post-COVID. Since they didn’t lend a helping hand. A friend in need is a friend indeed. This will leave China with no competitors when it comes to Africa’s Economy.
A new Dawn
Helping African countries fight the pandemic and bring the economies back on track is a top priority for Africa-China cooperation at this current stage. China’s plans to fill the gap, with deep pockets and generosity, has already signaled its intentions of becoming the first global powerhouse to deliver free vaccines to Africa. The vaccine debacle will leverage its trade and development interests to the Chinese. On the other hand, China and Russia emphasize that their vaccines are already available and can easily be stored in a common refrigerator or freezer. As early as May, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to make coronavirus vaccines available primarily to the Global South, making them Africa-friendly.
So far, China has sold and donated vaccines to 13 African countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
The number of vaccines that China has donated is relatively low—the most doses given freely to an African country are 300,000 to Egypt. India and Russia have also donated vaccines to a number of African countries.
If China managed to give vaccines and save a large part of the African population, do you think Africans will see China negatively?
Despite the African continent’s multibillion-dollar close ties with China, Western nations, including Europe and the United States, have always remained closer at heart with Africans.
But the hoarding of vaccines by the West could become a deal-breaker – the last straw for that matter. The fast pace at which the Sino-Africa relationship grew in the past decades is based on the reliability that China has shown as a development partner and delivering vaccines and saving millions of African lives. China is owning the narrative of vaccine diplomacy by getting notable headlines.
Even though China has been criticized for pursuing a so-called neo-colonialist agenda in Africa, the coronavirus vaccine assistance could change all that.
What do you think?
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Orire Agbaje, studies Economics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She love crunching digits. She is very cheerful, assertive and hard-working.