“I wish to express my disappointment in the manner in which COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, and this points to a form of vaccine apartheid. Namibia is one of the countries to have paid early for the vaccines.
“To date, Namibia has not yet received anything and has relied on COVID-19 vaccines from friends, such as India and China. I always say that inclusivity spells harmony and exclusivity spells harmony.”
These were the words of Namibian President Hage Geingob on the occasion of World Health Day 2021 this past week.
He went on: “We made the advance payment but there is this exclusion. Covid apartheid is now prevailing and we fought against apartheid for many years after races were divided, and after independence we adopted our policy of reconciliation. But we as a small country in Africa, who already made our deposit, are up to now waiting to get our vaccine. That is not good.”
This is a situation many developing countries face, as rich nations hoard drugs and pharmaceutical firms appear to give preference in distribution of vaccines to the West.
The statistics are startling.
According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, as of March 15, 2021, Africa had taken delivery of 23.6 million vaccines, which translates to a grand total of 0.5 percent of global distribution. Further, those vaccines are sufficient for less than two percent of the continent’s population.
When the pandemic started, some people warned that the world’s poor were likely to experience once more why they are third class citizens in the global village. In the 21st century, there are still many who believe European and American lives are more valuable than African ones.
African countries – whether individually, as regional blocs or under the aegis of the African Union – need to step up in demanding fair and equal treatment in the comity of nations.
Before the vaccine apartheid became apparent, we already had a dose of how the West views Africa within the context of COVID-19.
For months we have been subjected to the talk of a “South African variant” of the virus, with negative connotations being raised about it as if the people of South Africa deliberately set about creating a mutation to kill Europeans and Americans.
No one in the mainstream Western media will point out the obvious: South African scientists were diligent and skilled enough to detect and sequence a variant before anyone else did.
The result has been that we have seen countries like the United Kingdom, perhaps acting on the impulse of some sort of colonial hangover, barring travel from certain African nations and stoking the image of the people of this continent as some sort of medieval disease carriers.
Kenya has responded to this ugly COVID-19 politics in the manner that the rest of the continent needs to adopt.
The UK recently issued strict measures for travellers coming from Kenya, placing the East African country on a “red list”. Also on the “red list” are SADC member states Angola, Botswana, the DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe; in addition to other African countries.
That is about 90 percent of all SADC members being told by the United Kingdom that they are too diseased to enter their isles.
And only Kenya has responded in a way that shows it is fed up with being mischaracterised, stereotyped and abused by the West: President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government banned passenger flights from the United Kingdom, effective April 9, 2021. The decision will be reviewed after four weeks.
Hosia Mviringi (“As Kenya hits back at Britain, Africa picks its lesson”) captured it aptly when he wrote: “The retaliatory action has been hailed as the most appropriate response to the current bullying by Western countries who thing that they alone hold the levers to bilateral and multilateral relations, be them political, social, trade or security.
“The UK has one of the most stubborn variants of the COVID-19 virus in the world, in the same category as South Africa. What baffles the mind is the UK’s inclination to meeting out measures against countries who have fared much better so far in the management and mitigation of the pandemic worldwide who could be providing invaluable lessons to Her Majesty’s British Empire.”
Africa has roundly been hailed for implementing cost-effective measures to combat COVID-19, and instead of learning from Africa, the West would rather besmirch it.
Mviringi wrote: “Statistically, Kenya, at 2,224 recorded deaths so far (has) performed much better than the UK, which is sitting on more than 127,000 deaths for an island nation.”
In fact, that death toll in the UK is significantly higher than that of the whole of Africa combined.
The telling thing is that not one African country has used the fact that Western countries have higher COVID-19 infection rates and death tolls as a political tool or an economic sledgehammer.
Without descending into the ugly COVID-19 politics that some Western countries have, Africa should come up with bold and progressive responses that show that all people are indeed created equal.