RAJ KHOOBLALL
Former Director of Finance at
SADC Parliamentary Forum

There are now about 4.9 million Covid-19 cases on the African continent with South Africa accounting for about a third of it. The spread of the pandemic has badly affected the socio-economic situation in Africa where most of the countries witnessed their gross domestic product (GDP) contracting significantly in 2020, and 2021 seems not to be different. The continent has embarked on its largest-ever immunization program with Covid-19 vaccines campaign administered in almost all African countries. With some hesitancy at first, Africa came to realize that safe and effective vaccination is really a game-changing instrument in the fight against the pandemic while people must continue wearing masks, sanitizing hands, observing physical distancing and avoiding crowds.

Although Africa represents less than 5% of total world Covid-19 cases, the fast-moving trend of the pandemic and the emerging of new variants have shown that no-one is safe until everyone is protected by vaccination, and Africa must not be left behind. Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing coordinating assistance, technical guidance, and practical policy advice to support the African countries in these difficult times. In this context, some 42 African countries have already joined the COVAX facility, which aims to ensure equitable access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. This arrangement will provide about 600 million doses by the end of 2021 to vaccinate about 20% of the population, especially the health workers and other vulnerable groups.

The vaccination campaign started late on the continent as countries had to train their health workers and make logistic arrangements to vaccine front-liners and other high-risk population groups. Some African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line because of limited supply of the vaccines and difficulties in reaching the people in certain regions. International organizations are assisting countries to deal with the logistical difficulties of reaching remote locations and carrying out effective communication strategies to address vaccine hesitancy, people’s doubts and misinformation. The WHO has informed that the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks associated with it, and that countries in Africa should continue to vaccinate their population. A fair access to vaccines is vital if we are to fight this pandemic collectively.

Vaccine apartheid

African leadership has condemned the situation where thousands of people from poor countries are dying from Covid-19 while the majority of vaccines are being supplied principally to rich nations. This discrimination has been referred to as vaccine apartheid.

In the midst of this struggle for vaccines and