Analysis: West’s vaccine hegemony: Impetus for African unity and solidarity

2022-02-27 20:39:50
Analysis: West’s vaccine hegemony: Impetus for African unity and solidarity

After the 3rd Congress of the Pan African Movement, Rwanda Chapter, which took place on Saturday, February 26, it is important that Africans reflect on various global events that underpin the need for their unity and solidarity in political , economic and social affairs.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus, nations of the world, weak and strong, scrambled to work around the challenges posed by the pandemic to survive the precarious times.

China, where the virus was first confirmed, proved to be better placed to give the rest of the world direction on how to effectively handle the highly-contagious virus. Yet, its efforts met challenges as the pandemic was politicised, provoking conspiracy theories that the Chinese had produced the virus in their Wuhan laboratories with intent on deploying it as a biological weapon against the West.

Then came vaccine nationalism with its widespread cases of vaccine hoarding as well as side deals with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, which undermined access to all people in the world. Low income countries, particularly in Africa, struggled to secure the vaccines, which were essential for preserving lives and restoring economic activity.

African governments through the African Centre for Disease Control and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, pleaded with the West to allow some vaccine supplies to Africa. The appeal fell on deaf ears and the vaccine hoarding went on and on.

As would be expected of Western governments; though, the hoarded vaccines were later to be supplied to African countries as assistance. Having denied African nations access to Covid-19 vaccines even when they had mobilised relatively sufficient funds, Western powers effectively played on the continent’s inability to manufacture vaccines and thrust their might upon African peoples. Such actions show that multilateralism and globalism often preached by the West, only, mean anything if they are in the interests of the West.

In May 2021, a World Bank report estimated that, for each month of delay in provision of Covid-19 vaccines, Africa lost an estimated $14 billion in gross domestic product.

This is money which, if saved, would be deployed to build critical infrastructure and provision of social amenities such as healthcare facilities, schools, transport and setting up sustainable food reserves.

Now, more than ever, African governments must come to common terms with the fact that regulatory hindrances to effective cross-border trade and travel need to be addressed as they look to each other for solutions and development partnerships.

African countries should keep their borders open to each other such that trade booms amongst them, thereby offsetting gaps in trade with other continents and properly manage any such issues, like the Covid-19 pandemic, that cripple global supply chains.

Even when there are not any hindrances to trade between Africa and the other continents, intra-Africa trade gives the continent negotiating power on the global stage which, ultimately, becomes a force multiplier in shaping Africa’s place in global power dynamics.

African nations should cease looking at their competitive advantages as opportunities for show-of-might and instead use such competitive advantages as leverage to build each other up and create an unbreakable force on the World stage. With all odds stacked against Africa in global power plays, Africans have, at most, their unity and solidarity to save them from the forces of exploitation and inequity they are, and will likely continue, being served with.

By Steven Katurebe, for The New Times (Rwanda).

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