Foreign Policy

COVAX obstacles threaten vaccine adoption in Africa

Welcome to the Africa Foreign Policy Letter.

This week’s highlights: Limited vaccine supplies undermine and threaten the COVAX initiative Vaccine Rollout Efforts across the continent for a long time Chad President Idriss Déby dies in a clash with rebels and US musicians Akon is criticized after a meeting with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

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Africa loses the vaccination race

Africa has been lagging behind in the race to acquire coronavirus vaccines since the beginning. It was clear that individual governments would not be able to compete against wealthier nations buying limited stocks, so a concerted effort was quickly made. When the first cans arrived in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Rwanda in late February and early March, the continent’s rollout seemed to have finally started. Efforts, however, stumble in the face of systemic barriers to distribution. Now India’s growing third wave could also directly affect the continent’s access to vaccines.

Africa got most of its vaccine doses through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative backed by the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – primarily AstraZeneca, for which no store is under freezing point is required. COVAX now needs an additional $ 2 billion to continue its work.

But even that may not be enough if there are no recordings to be found. The initiative relied on the private Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, for its supply. However, India has grappled with rising cases, halting vaccine exports and disrupting COVAX’s efforts in 36 African countries.

Last week, John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged India to lift its export restrictions. “If you completed vaccinating your people off Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself justice as variants emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts,” he said.

Blocked rollouts. With COVAX’s efforts undermined, it is now unclear when the next batch of vaccine will hit the continent. The COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, established by the heads of state of the African Union, has raised funds to purchase canned goods separately, but its efforts are also being blocked by global shortages.

Meanwhile, Rwanda and Ghana have almost exhausted their vaccine supplies and their otherwise efficient rollout strategies have been hampered by shortages. Many people who have received their first shot via COVAX have no idea when the second will arrive, and there are concerns that waiting could weaken the vaccine’s effectiveness. In Malawi and South Sudan, where adoption has already been challenged by poor public health infrastructure, the AstraZeneca cans have expired and must be destroyed.

Expanding local vaccine production could help solve distribution problems, but US and European pharmaceutical companies still strictly protect patent rights for the COVID-19 vaccines. Even when Nkengasong advocated the urgent establishment of local manufacturing at a conference on April 12, he admitted that some African states may have to wait until 2023 to have access to the vaccine.

Walk alone. In South Africa, where most of the infections have occurred in Africa, with more than 1.5 million cases, the introduction of vaccines has also been disrupted by forces beyond its control. As a middle-income country, it cannot take full advantage of COVAX’s tiered distribution system and is now trying to outperform its weight in the battle for shots. South Africa paid over 1 million doses of AstraZeneca, but they proved less effective against the variant first identified in the country. In February, the company switched to Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine instead and planned to rely on a local manufacturing facility to be contracted to manufacture it.

After vaccinating nearly 290,000 healthcare workers, South Africa halted rollout after six people in the US developed rare blood clots after receiving Johnson & Johnson shots. South African Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced that large pharmaceutical companies are exposing the country to unreasonable claims. “We are in the precarious position of having to choose between saving the lives of our citizens and the risk of handing the country’s assets into private hands,” he told parliament last week.

Compared to other regions, Africa appears to have been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, but the emergence of new variants shows that no one is protected until everyone is protected. Scientists warn that the longer it takes to vaccinate a population, the more resistant COVID-19 could be to vaccines when they finally arrive.

April 21: The UN Security Council discusses its mission in Western Sahara.

April 21 to 24: High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell visits the Sahel zoneStopover in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

April 26: The UN Security Council discusses its mission in Sudan and South Sudan.

Chad under siege. The President of Chad, Idriss Déby, was killed in a fight between rebels and government soldiers. This emerges from a military statement made just a day after the country’s electoral commission declared its inevitable victory in a controversial election. On Tuesday, the military announced that the 68-year-old had been injured “on the battlefield”. His son, General Mahamat Kaka, becomes the interim leader of a country now facing the twin crises of an illegitimate election and a rebel uprising.

After the elections closed last Sunday, the rebels began to penetrate the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, to rid the country of its longtime leader. The Front for Change and Unity in Chad (FACT) launched the attack from neighboring Libya, while the Chadian government and international observers focused on dissent over the April 11 elections, which boycotted the opposition and cracked down on civilians Protesters went ahead.

A FACT spokesman said its fighters had captured Kanem province, northwest of the capital – a claim the government denied even as Chadian forces met rebels on the front lines. Officials said Déby himself skipped his presidential victory speech to take command of the fight. Even after his death, the fighting continues. The military has imposed a curfew over fears that rebels might reach N’Djamena.

Déby, who has been in power since 1990, has faced growing discontent from civil society and opposition parties, turmoil that may have given the rebels a chance. The circumstances of his death and his decision to go to the front remain unclear. But Déby was a consummate soldier and an iron leader who centralized power and undermined his country’s political institutions. His sudden absence is likely to plunge Chad into another crisis.

Supporters of Somali presidential candidates demonstrate in Mogadishu on February 19.AFP via Getty Images

Somalia’s president extends power. The embattled Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – widely known by the nickname Farmajo – has passed a law to extend his term of office by two years. Farmajo’s term should have ended in February, but a disagreement over electoral regulations resulted in a late election and political crisis. Farmajo pushed the law through the House of Commons and bypassed the Senate.

The law paves the way for direct elections in two years’ time, leaving power in Farmajo’s hands during that time. Somali and foreign observers have warned that this move could jeopardize the country’s fragile stability. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “deeply disappointed” with Somalia’s new law.

Cameroon’s LGBTQ policy. A Human Rights Watch report warns of a “renewed surge in the persecution of LGBT people” by the Cameroonian security forces. The crackdown has tightened in recent months as the government has arrested 24 people since February, including Loic Njeukam, a well-known transgender social media star. Njeukam, known as Shakiro, will be tried next week for “attempted homosexuality”.

Acts classified as homosexual are illegal in Cameroon. You can get five years in prison and give security guards the freedom to abuse the law. In the past two years, Cameroonian police have carried out mass arrests of LGBTQ people and subjected detainees to degrading abuse, according to Human Rights Watch.

Over 14.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given across the continent, but rollout campaigns have stalled in many countries.

A futuristic city in a crumbling democracy. Senegalese American musician Akon came to Uganda last week with plans to develop a futuristic city. After landing in Kampala, he traveled to the rural home of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, where he presented his plans for hospitals, shopping centers and leisure facilities. (Akon is planning a similar development in Senegal.) The Ugandan government has given the project one square mile of empty land.

But where Akon sees a business opportunity, human rights groups see a celebrity “whitewashing” the wave of repression Uganda has seen since Museveni’s re-election in January. Museveni’s regime has used brutal violence against supporters of the opposition’s main candidate, the musician who has become a politician, Bobi Wine.

When asked about Museveni’s leadership record, Akon rejected the criticism and told the Ugandan press: “To be honest, I just don’t mind. It is clear that democracy works differently in different places and that not every place in the world is made for democracy. “

Kenya’s unholy alliance. Religion professor Damaris Parsitau writes in Elephant about the debate sparked by generous donations from Kenyan politicians to churches and clergy, including the “godly generous giver” of Kenyan Vice President William Ruto. “Religious-ethnic political competition and mobilization have increasingly become defining features of electoral politics in Africa, including Kenya,” she writes.

Michel Foucault’s crimes in Tunisia. In Al Jazeera, Tunisian academic Haythem Guesmi investigates recent reports of French philosopher Michel Foucault sexually abusing boys in Tunisia in the late 1960s after a friend contacted the Sunday Times. Guesmi wrestles with what it means to blame one of the world’s leading thinkers on power and sexuality in a country where sacrifice can be seen as available.

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