EU pledges $5.7b for economic reboot, made-in-Africa vaccines

Saturday February 19 2022
European Commission President Ursula

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (left) and other leaders during the European Union-African Union Summit in Brussels. PHOTO | AFP


The European Union is pledging funding to help African economies reboot after the ravages of Covid-19 but the actual disbursement will be tied to actions by individual countries.

At the end of the much-delayed sixth EU-AU Summit in Brussels, the Covid-19 pandemic was the focus of every political leader, including rallying calls to address vaccine equity. Also at the fore were issues of human rights, environmental conservation and climate change as well as technological innovation and digital investments.

While the funding could be as high as $170 billion in two years under the Global Gateway Investment Package, much of it will come through credit or investment guarantees.

By the end of the summit, different institutions affiliated to the EU and the International Monetary Fund had made commitments to channel at least $5.7 billion to Africa to help private sector investments in high-impact sectors, to help recuperate mirco, small and medium enterprises affected by the pandemic, and to facilitate the transfer of vaccine technology.

At the last summit in Cote d’Ivoire in 2017, the leaders had addressed issues of technology, peace and security, migration, investments and sustainable development.

This year the leaders, including 40 heads of state and government from Africa, arrived in Brussels with a promise to make “fresh start for a renewed partnership,” according to a call by President Macky Sall of Senegal, the current African Union chairperson.


“The crux of the matter is not the availability of funding, but rather the gathering of political will to guarantee the best allocations and, above all, the systems of a fair and supportive global governance,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, told the summit.

His opening remarks invoked previous pledges where the EU countries made similar promises. Only now the funding is more.

“Although this declaratory Euro-African convergence is certainly an indicator of coherence in a common strategic vision, it is lacking, however, why hide it, in a real gap between its discursive formulations and its factual, practical, real-life transforming effects,” the Chadian diplomat said.

The two-day summit was attended by leaders, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu who demanded vaccine equity. Burundi’s Évariste Ndayishimiye was in attendance in his first trip to Brussels since the EU lifted sanctions on his country. Uganda was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jeje Odongo.

“This rapidly changing Africa wants consensual and mutually beneficial partnerships,” Mr Sall told a joint press conference on Wednesday.

His South African counterpart said it was unacceptable to queue for vaccines already bought by the rich, calling for a waiver of intellectual property rights for Africa to produce its own.

“Governments that are serious about vaccine access for all need to approve the TRIPS (agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights at the World Trade Organisation) waiver,” President Ramaphosa said.

Vaccine production

On Friday, the EU said it will pump in $45 million towards local vaccine production in Africa and the World Health Organisation said South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Egypt will be the first to receive technology-sharing to start local production.

The elephant in the room, though, remained intellectual property rights whose waiver has been opposed by big pharma. First proposed by India and South Africa in 2020 citing emergency clauses, the EU and other rich countries had refused to endorse it. Under the WTO, a single no vote means no approval.

“There is no intent to waive vaccine IPRs. It is too complicated,” Pradeep Mehta, the secretary general of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society, a non-profit that tracks access to markets for the poor, told The EastAfrican.

“The better way is to promote and facilitate voluntary licensing with differential pricing.”

For example, the Serum Institute in India is a big global supplier of AstraZeneca with prices lower than those in the West,” he said on Friday.

“With the transfer of technology and the production of doses of vaccines in Africa, the fight that we are waging today together in the face of the pandemic is also a fight for tomorrow, in the long term, for access to vaccines for all continents, for health sovereignty,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.