African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa has accused the world’s richest nations of deliberately failing to provide enough Covid-19 vaccines to the continent.
Masiyiwa, the union’s special envoy to the African vaccine acquisition task team, said the Covax scheme had failed to keep its promise to secure production of 700 million doses of vaccines in time for delivery by December 2021.
“It’s not a question of if this was a moral failure, it was deliberate. Those with the resources pushed their way to the front of the queue and took control of their production assets,” Masiyiwa told a panel discussion hosted by CNBC on Wednesday.
“Imagine we are in a village and there is drought and there will not be enough bread and the richest guys grabs the baker and they take control of the production of bread and we all have to go to those [rich] guys to ask for a loaf of bread,” he said.
The telecommunications mogul said that if ever there was an inquiry into how vaccines have been distributed, Covax – an initiative by the World Health Organization to enable poor countries to get free vaccines – would be found culpable, “because we were misled”.
“We were led down the garden path … We got to December believing that the whole world was coming together to purchase vaccines, not knowing that we had been corralled into a little corner while others ran off and secured the supplies.”
He said that when he met vaccine manufacturers in December, he was told that all production capacity for 2021 had been sold.
“So, the people who bought the vaccines and those who sold them the vaccines, knew that there would be nothing for us,” he said.
While the UK has fully vaccinated 47% of its citizens and the US has vaccinated 45%, less than 1% of Africa’s population have been fully vaccinated. The continent has so far administered about 40 million vaccine doses, in a population of 1.3 billion people.
Portugal’s former prime minister José Manuel Barroso, who participated in the CNBC debate, conceded that the distribution of vaccines had been unfair.
He said the system needed to be revised while lessons must be learned from the mistakes made so far.