Africa’s drive to economic prosperity today goes through the Covid 19 vaccines, according to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) , Vera Songwe.
Chairing the Africa’s Recovery talk series Thursday, Ms Songwe said only 2.3% of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion has been vaccinated, with the Africa CDC targeting that 30% be vaccinated by December 2021. To achieve herd immunity, about 60% to 70% percent of the population must be vaccinated.
Africa has to date secured 400 million doses of the vaccine, but the continent needs 1.6 billion for its people.
According to Dr John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa CDC, health security was both an economic and national security issue.
“Strengthening your health system is not a cost, but is an investment,” said Dr Nkengason. “Africa must place the public health agenda at the centre of both the political and economic dialogue. You do not dig your wells when you are thirsty, but you dig them before you are. You do not develop your health system in the middle of a pandemic, but you do so in preparation for a pandemic.”
He said the Covid 19 pandemic has wrought a lot of damage to the continent’s aspiration and the AfCFTA, arguing without it the continent’s development agenda would have made huge strides.
“Health security will drive Africa’s prosperity,” he said.
Kennedy Odeke, another panelist, said for Africa to achieve herd immunity, there was need to bring on board community leaders into the fight against the pandemic.
“Covid 19 has come in as a way to show us the disparity in our communities, which, if not addressed, will see the pandemic creating more economic difficulty,” Mr Odeke said, adding public demonstrations in Lagos and Johannesburg were an indication of the disparity prevalent in society.
“Let us go down to our community leaders, our religious leaders, to the chiefs, the elders, and put them in the centre of our agenda. Otherwise, we will bring the vaccines, and no-one will take it. Community leaders must feel that they are part of the government and of the future.”
Ms Songwe said one way of driving prosperity on the continent was by sending a message that was not confusing to the population, eg holding political rallies in the middle of a pandemic resulting in people questioning the importance of taking the vaccine anyway; and building trust.
“The fact that Africa has been able to come together to deliver its own vaccines, not free vaccines, to the continent is clearly a way of driving prosperity on the continent,” she said.
“paying for what you need is a guarantee that you’ll get it. If you wait for donations, the uncertainty around vaccines increases, and conversely decreases our drive for prosperity.”
She said the pandemic had taught Africa that if she takes her future into her own hands the continent can actually define it.
“Good policies and good politics should drive Africa’s path towards economic prosperity,” she said.
The virtual discussion was organised and hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa as the second edition of its monthly Africa’s Response talk series titled ‘It’s your turn!’.