Health apartheid in Africa is not an accident – 07/04/2021 – Mathias Alencastro

The prospect of a regional improvement in the pandemic, with some Latin American countries moving closer and closer to vaccinating more than half of their populations by the end of the year, opens up a harsh reality: l Africa has simply been left out of the biggest vaccination campaign. Of the history.

Created to ensure a balanced distribution of vaccinations around the world, the Covax program has not even reached the minimum target of 20% vaccination coverage in African countries. The reports of the African Union negotiators clearly show that the local governments were playing a game of marked cards: by the end of 2020, the Western powers had already reserved all the stock of vaccines available for the next twelve months.

The results of vaccine diplomacy in southern countries are also far from pompous propaganda campaigns. Countries like Egypt and Morocco have only purchased 33 million of the more than 700 million vaccines marketed by the Chinese around the world. Contrary to Moscow’s promises, Sputnik V only arrived in small quantities in Algeria, Angola and Tunisia.

Attempts to explain vaccine segregation on the African continent refer to assumptions about the pandemic that have been refuted over time. With one of the lowest age pyramids on the planet (the average age in Angola, 17, is almost half that of Brazil), most African countries started by reporting fewer deaths than others. regions of the world. The supposed geographical isolation and the intense circulation of other pathologies also helped to consolidate the idea that Africa was “naturally protected”.

The myth of exceptionalism, which has characterized relations between Africa and the world since colonial times, had two dramatic consequences: it left African countries vulnerable to the eruption of new, more aggressive variants such as the delta, which is behind vague third-party violence in Uganda, Namibia and South Africa, where the number of infections has risen tenfold last month.

Then, the lack of vaccination coverage has reinforced migration barriers. The launch of the European digital certificate confirms that health restrictions will play a central role in international mobility. If nothing changes, the citizens of African countries will continue to be excluded indefinitely from economic circuits.

The exit goes through industrialization. South Africa took an important step in this direction last month by signing the first agreement for vaccine production on African soil with China and France. An initiative that could have been launched months ago if allies like Brazil had supported Pretoria in its numerous diplomatic attempts to democratize access to vaccines.

The health apartheid taking root in Africa is not a logistical accident caused by the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic or a phenomenon attributable to the underdevelopment of its countries. It is the result of the political economy of exclusion, for which the countries of the South, like those of the North, are directly responsible.

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