By Emma Ujah, Abuja
The African Development Bank is to support African countries to produce required vaccines within the continent, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, the President of the Bank, speaking on Africa’s Debt and Growth in an interview with CNN ahead of the launch of tADB’s African Economic Outlook 2021 launch today.
Dr. Adesina said, “For us at AfDB, we are looking beyond the current situation. We are looking at medium and also long term. I can’t accept that 1.4 billion people have to be running from pillar to post looking for vaccines.
“We at AfDB have therefore decided that we are going to support Africa to have quality healthcare infrastructure and also make sure that it develops its own pharmaceutical capacity and also produce vaccines in Africa; not running from pillar to post.”
The AfDB President noted that the issue of vaccine was a big problem and that the Africa has so far received a mere 1 per cent of the continent’s needs.
His words, “You know so far 40.6 million vaccines have been delivered in Africa and people can’t even get a shot in the arm. That 40.6 million is only 1% of what we need; talk less of having 60% of herd immunity. So we are way off the mark on that.”
He emphasised the importance of Africa to have access to the vaccines and the need to have vaccine solidarity, pointing out that although those concerned are doing a great job, “the amounts are still in miniscule as far as we are concerned. We need to actually have global solidarity on this; but beyond that, there must also have vaccine justice, making sure that everybody has the vaccine.”
Dr Adesina warned against leaving Africa behind in the distribution of the vaccinea.
His words, “If we deal with this pandemic in one part of the world and don’t deal with other parts, we are going back to square one. So, absolutely we must make sure that we ramp up access to vaccine. Africa needs it in quantity, it needs it on time and it needs it on an affordable price.”
He noted the challenging economic situation across the continent leading to loss of jobs, more poverty and hunger. This, he said, has the tendency of worsening social, economic and political fragility of countries.
According to him, “A lot of young people lost jobs, and so for us, its how do you build back, making sure you have economic resilience. Of course doing that with climate resilience; also make sure that we can secure the health of the populations with health resilience. Now the political dynamics of this is very important because when young people can’t find jobs, it can really worsen social, economic and political fragility of countries.
“So everything comes back to making sure that we support Africa, the global community rallies round Africa to meet the fiscal deficit that it has. We were looking for $154 billion last year – that was all. Developed countries were spending over $9 trillion, the G20; but Africa couldn’t just get $154 billion. There needs to be a total change in that, to make sure that Africa gets the resources to expand its fiscal space; and in particular the issue of debt, because you can’t really run up the hill with a backpack that is full of sand.”
The AfDB boss also urged creditors to extend the period of debt repayment and forgiveness in such a way that the period of deferment continues to be helpful to African countries.
He pointed out that COVID 19 related spending has swollen many countries borrowing; and without more aid, 39 million Africans stand the risk of falling into extreme poverty this year. More than 30 million Africans are already in the extreme poverty bracket.
On the growth in Africa, Dr. Akinwunmi said, “We projected that Africa will grow back. We projected 3.4% back this year; but all that is conditional on two things: Access to vaccines and the issue of debts.