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Vaccine inequality must be corrected for quick COVID-19 recovery in Africa, says Okonjo-Iweala

Vaccine inequality must be corrected for quick COVID-19 recovery in Africa, says Okonjo-Iweala
May 25
19:24 2021

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), says tackling the  inequality in global COVID vaccine distribution is needed for Africa’s sustainable recovery.

She said this on Tuesday at the 2021 edition of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Africa Day Conversations, a virtual forum on achieving sustainable development in the continent.

For countries in Africa to bounce back from coronavirus, The WTO DG noted the importance of debt restructuring, as well as giving economies space to breathe so that they can invest not only in the health sector but in the economic sector.

“I’m very proud of what the continent has done so far in coming together. Our leaders really tried to build a one Africa approach to this, by building the vaccine acquisition group, by building the medical supplies platform, by bringing together the COVID-19 envoys of which I was privileged to be one, and supporting the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” she said.

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“But if we are to recover sustainably from this crisis, we have to correct the vaccine inequity that is so evident in the world today. The fact that we have vaccinated so little of our population is not acceptable. As Dr Tedros mentioned, the fact that we import 99% of our vaccines and 90% of pharmaceuticals is not acceptable.”

Okonjo-Iweala shared the results of a study conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which showed that by spending an additional $50 billion to vaccinate 40% of the world’s population by 2021, and up to 60% by 2022, the world would be able to reverse vaccine inequity and gain $9 trillion by 2025.

“The numbers are staggering. Compare $50 billion to $9 trillion that we could make if we did this right. Because I’m a finance minister, we could collect an additional $1 trillion in taxes. This is something they have also talked about,” she added.

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“It is important for the world that we reverse this vaccine inequity and Africa benefits from it. We cannot recover sustainably without it.

So, we have to fight for it, whether by getting more vaccines or by manufacturing our own.”

She assured the public of the readiness of the WTO to keep supply chains open for vaccine manufacturing.

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